Feeding the world

Last Saturday I went to the Not the G8 1 day conference at Leeds Uni run by the World Development Movement. The day was roughly scheduled to coincide with this year’s G8 summit to be held on the 17th and 18th June in Northern Ireland.  As one of several pre-summit events, on the 8th June Cameron hosted a G8 Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science. The first speaker at the Not The G8 event, Raj Patel, used Cameron’s speech to illustrate and critique the sort of policy being promoted as “Diet Coke Plus” Politics. The general thrust of the G8 event was to decouple problems of nutrition from poverty and promote technocratic big business and market based food programmes. The World Development Movement has been pointing out the often disastrous limitations of this approach and organising actions against it for many years. This is an area which interests me a great deal and I would like to follow up on some of the ideas, practices and policies set out at the conference. This post is just a note and a record of a couple of resources I will be looking at. One is the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development report from 2008 that demonstrates that a corporate business as usual model of agricultural development will not solve problems of poverty, food security for billions of people or malnutrition and in any case it is environmentally unsustainable. This has had an ambivalent reception from many western governments. The other report is the Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not report published in January 2013 by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. This makes the claim that up to 50% of food produced to feed us does not reach human stomachs. The current world population is just over 7 billion and is forecast, according to the UN, to increase to between 8 and 10 billion by 2050. One authoritative model predicts that the world population will reach a maximum round about 2050 and thereafter remain fairly steady or even decline. Either way, if no food, at current levels of production, was wasted we already produce enough to feed 14 billion. In fact, as the UN reports, we are currently producing more calories of food per head of the world population than ever before, more than enough for each individual. The problem of malnutrition is clearly one of waste and distribution rather than production.  But there is a lot more at stake when critiquing current dominant food policies – politically, culturally and ethically.