We need to stop thinking about food security as an economic problem.
Food security is largely discussed in terms of increasing demand pressures and worsening constraints on supply. These discussions miss the fundamental problem of food security today: around 1 billion people go hungry while up to 40% of food production is wasted.
Certainly the pressures and constraints are undeniable. Population continues to grow. Economic development means exploding demand for red meat and processed foods from the burgeoning Asian and Latin American middle classes.
At the same time, arable land is rapidly being consumed by urbanisation and development. Agricultural productivity is further threatened by soil erosion and the devastation of biodiversity - crops don’t thrive in a monoculture.
Fresh water resources are threatened by damming, pollution and the depletion of non-renewable fossil aquifers.
Increasing production is not enough
These supply constraints are not new issues: most have been recognised since the early 1970s. Food production yield increases have long outstripped population growth, but more people — in number and proportion — are going hungry now than were back then.
Economic prosperity has also boomed in the intervening decades. So much for the “rising tide that lifts all boats”.
We must find a way to break the cycle of poverty and inequality. Otherwise all the technological solutions to increase food supply and meet the needs of growing populations will fail to solve the shame of widespread hunger.