Concerns about issues related to world food problem started in early 1970s but has remained unresolved to date. During the early 1970s, concern was much about the prices and supplies of world foods; however, that shifted to hunger and individual access of foods. Apart from hunger and access of food, currently there are many issues related to global food problem that are being discussed from many different quarters and the solutions are yet to be found. Some of the issues include (1) hunger and malnutrition, (2) the impact of climate change, (3) green revolution, (4) water scarcity and groundwater depletion, (5) contrasting perspectives on biotechnology, (6) the rising human populations, (7) scarcity of land, (8) industrial sugar and sweeteners, and (9) markets among others. This paper discusses some of these issues through an interdisciplinary lens.
Hunger and malnutrition
Hunger and malnutrition is one of the key issues associated with world food problems. Currently in the world, especially from developing countries in Africa and Asia, majority of people suffer from hunger and malnutrition: in each case, majority of the group affected by hunger and malnutrition are children: as the world population grows geometrically, greater pressure is put on food production and distribution which has led to hunger and malnutrition in some areas. According to a 2014 statistics by World Bank, about two billion people are malnourished, which represent a double increase in less than 40 years. The statistics further indicates that more 90 million people in China are malnourished due to lack of sufficient food (Horton, Harold, and Juan 89).
In Minnesota, United States of America, approximately one out of six children belongsto households affected by insecure foods. Fortunately the federal state runs a nutritional program; however, only 20% of effected children are enrolled for this program. In Africa, the situation is worse as many children die annually due to hunger and malnutrition. Hunger and malnutrition in the world is caused by a combination of many factors including low income, insufficient food production, as well as inadequate distribution of food across the world (World Health Organization 78).
The impact of climate change
Climate change increases the risk of world food problems through extreme weather events as well as long-term and gradual climate risks: these two processes acerbate the risks of hunger and malnutrition. Climate change increases the intensity and frequency of various disastrous events such as floods, droughts as well as storms which subsequently causes adverse effects on food production and distribution. In addition, disasters caused by climate change have great potential of destroying critical agricultural infrastructures, crops as well as key community assets thereby deteriorating the overall food insecurity (Schmidhuber and Francesco 99).
Climate change also contributes to the long term effects of world food problems: it causes the sea level to rise thereby affecting the agricultural productivity and livelihood of river deltas and coastal areas. As climate change accelerates the glacial melting, the quantity and availability of water alters thereby directly affectingglobal food production. In addition, the melting of polar glaciers also results in unprecedented changes in weather patterns, including flooding and droughts. In the long term, it is estimated that climate change will have greatest effects on the global food supply and distribution: many people will suffer from hunger and malnutrition due to low agricultural productivity resulting from changes in weather patterns. Due to lack of technological investments, agricultural practice in developing countries of Africa and Asia will suffer greatly from climate change because these countries have limited ability to control weather events linked to climate change that affects their agricultural activities (Schmidhuber and Francesco 79).
Green revolution was a period of increased crop production especially in developing countries achieved as a result of better agricultural techniques: it started in early 1960s. During this period, better fertilizers and pesticides were developed which led to increase crop productions across the world. Green revolution started with the work of scientist Norm Borlaug whose work on selective breeding and crossbreeding led to improvement of agricultural production: during that time, new synthetic herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers were developed which led to drastic increase in global food production.
Even though green revolution led to increased crop production in other developing countries, it was not successful in Africa because of numerous problems such as widespread corruption, lack of government will, poor infrastructure, and availability of water for irrigation. The fact that green revolution is not worldwide is a major issue associated with global food problems. For instance, it spreads agricultural technologies which have not been tested and implemented in industrialized nations. They include technologies such as modern pesticides, irrigation, and, synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, which might have potential effects on soils and crop (Evenson and Douglas 66).
Another issue of green revolution that is directly relation to global food problem is the rising costs that many farmers have to incur. The technique is associated with increased use of pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation system which increases the cost of agricultural production thus reducing the profitability of farmers. In addition, green revolution is affected by the huge problem of widespread commercialization and organizational market share. Sees are patented and they are becoming more expensive to farmers in developing countries. Lastly, the use of synthetic herbicides and chemical fertilizers interfered with the environment by increasing erosion and pollution (Evenson and Douglas 46).
Water scarcity and groundwater depletion
Generally, the world is experiencing rapid rise in water scarcity to meet both industrial and agricultural needs: it affects almost every country. In addition, there is increasing difficulties in obtaining sources of fresh water thus leading to water stress. Water scarcity is greatly caused by climate change and depletion of available sources including groundwater reservoirs. Water scarcity and depletion of groundwater has led to a rise in droughts, which makes agricultural activities very difficult in most countries. Surface water bodies such as lakes, rivers, reservoirs, wetlands store less than 1% of total global freshwater. Water scarcity and groundwater depletion greatly affects agriculture because it is the largest user of freshwater globally, accounting for about 70% of total consumption.
In United States and other countries, the volume of groundwater is steadily decreasing in response to pumping and other human activities. The depletion fop groundwater is associated with negative effects such as drying up of wells, deterioration of water quality, land subsidence, increased pumping costs, and reduction of water in lakes and streams among others. It is estimated that about 20% of the total world’s population resides in areas affected by water scarcity and in such areas, it is difficult for agriculture to thrive and the production of foods is significantly limited. In overall, the water scarcity and groundwater depletion greatly contribute to the global food problems (Seckler Randolph 102).
Contrasting perspectives on biotechnology
Recent technological advancements led to significant improvement of biotechnology over the last 2 to 3 years culminating in the commercial mass production of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) food products. Mass production of GMO food products started in 1996 with maize, cotton, and soybeans in United States and by 4 years later there were more than 600 varieties of genetically modified plants in United States. Other countries that followed suit with mass production of GMO food products include Argentina, Canada, France, Spain, China, South Africa, Australia, and Brazil.
In 2014, GMO crops reached 35% of global commercial market value. Despite this rapid increase, several controversies have emergence over the use of GMO food products to an extent that many regions have contrasting perspectives on the issue: while other supports GMO foods other detest it citing various health issues among other reasons. In this case, various issues relating to health, ethics and economics are at stake in the conflict rage between consumers and commercial interests. Despite the commercial interest, researchers are more concerned with the safety of GMO food products as well as the ethics of its usage and most of them have openly criticized agribusinesses for choosing profits at the expense of potential health hazards (Frewer et al 37).
The contrasting perspectives on biotechnology have resulted in different approaches to the regulation of GMO products across regions such as United States and Europe. With respect to the international trading system, the different regulation policies have impacts that directly affect other countries, thus making dialogue difficult to achieve and widening the conflicting views. For instance, while Obama sign a bill that requires labeling of GMO products, other countries have not acted in a similar manner (Frewer et al 67).
The rising human populations
The ability of a country to feed its citizens depends on three factors namely availability of arable land, population pressure and accessible water. The global population of human beings has more than doubled within the last century alone, which puts pressure on the world food production and distribution. It is projected that the world population will reach nine billion by the year 2050; the more people there are the more food is needed to feed them. In addition the more people the increased pressure on the available arable land and water resources. The current level of food production is undermined by the increasing human population by causing problems such as shrinking landholdings, unequal land distribution, deepening rural poverty, and rising land degradation among others.
According to statistics by United Nations, the world population is increasing by 250 000 people eachsingle day, a situation that looks less promising in terms of sustainable food problem. The largest increase in population occurs in poor countries that have food problems. In essence, if population growth rate is not controlled, then the world as a whole might not be able to feed its citizens in the coming years. To feed the current high population, then the world need to increase its food production; however, some countries are incapacitated in terms of their ability to increase food production (Boserup et al 88).
Scarcity of land
The increase in world population greatly puts pressure on the size of arable land: the arable land become less and less. Apart from residential purposes, most of the arable lands are now used for other different human investments and development projects, which contribute to insufficient food production levels: this is a huge problem in developing countries which still depends on the traditional methods of crop production. In developing countries such as Africa, more than 5% of formerly arable land has been lost due to soil erosion and water degradation (Boserup et al 45).
Another problem associated with land scarcity is the fragmentation: the available arable land is continuously being fragmented in order to accommodate the growing number of human dependents. This had led to continue decrease on the available size of land for agricultural purpose. Land fragmentation has direct effects on the world food production as it reduces the quantity that each country or region can produce. In addition, land fragmentation has turned majority of arable land into part-time farms hence cannot produce enough to create significant impact on global food production.
Industrial sugar and sweeteners
In the 21st century, production and use of industrial sugar and sweeteners increased significantly especially with the evolution of retail supermarket chains and stores. Within the last four decades, the production of industrial food products changed significantly with a remarkable increase in sugar additives. Currently, majority of food products sold in supermarkets such as snacks have sugar additives. As this trend increase, the level of sugar consumption has tremendously increased due to consumption of these industrial food products.
The increase in sugar consumption is associated with many bad health effects such as obesity. In United States of America and other European countries, many people are suffering from obesity simply due to consumption of industrial food products. In United States, the federal has considered imposing high taxes on sugary drinks so as to significantly reduce their consumption and thereby obesity. While food manufactures are driven by profits, there is a general concern over the increased usage of industrial sugars and sweeteners especially with its effects on human health (Daily et al 45).
Market plays a significant role in the world food problems: the access and distribution of market affects both small and commercial farmers. The global market serves an important role of bringing together all information, products, people as well as resources so as to establish an environment that promote growth. Currently, the global food and agricultural marketsare not efficient thus they do not promote growth and sustainability. In most countries across, the market is affected by inefficient physical infrastructure, government regulations, as well as inadequate education, which leads to poor quality standards in food production and distribution across the world. Despite the rapidly changing agricultural environment, the world experiences greater concentration of market power in few countries especially in Europe and North America. These conditions are limiting fair trade and efficiency of global food production and distribution: farers in developing countries are not receiving fair price for their agricultural produce (Lang and Michael 212).
The paper discussed some issues related to world food problems through an interdisciplinary lens. The major issues related to world food problems are hunger and malnutrition, the impact of climate change, green revolution, water scarcity and groundwater depletion, contrasting perspectives on biotechnology, the rising human populations, scarcity of land, markets, and industrial sugar and sweeteners. These issues are interrelated and they collectively affect the ability of the world to feed itself. Even though sustainable solution has not been found, many organizations and independent researchers are working on the future of the world’s food system. At the moment, the greatest international debate and concern is how to produce sufficient amount of food and distributed it rightly all over the world (Johnson et al 218).
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