Population growth alone is not the main obstacle in food security

By Shawna Rowe

CIUDAD OBREGON, Mexico — Commonly believed to be at the root of global hunger challenges, population growth is not what threatens to starve the world, a leading economist said Wednesday.

“Population is not the big challenge for the future of food,” said Robert W. Herdt, an International Professor of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University. “It’s an issue of the poor not getting enough of the food that we already have.”

Herdt discussed the relationship between global populations and world hunger during the Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security.

The global demand for food is a combination of the demands of food, energy and the environment, he said. The perception of a food shortage is amplified by the lack of policies to make food accessible to the poor. In addition to meeting the increased food production requirements, the poor need legal rights to food.

Policies must be implemented to increase accessibility to food, improve soil nutrient content and to increase research on local crops, Herdt said.

Actual food production is far lower than food production potential, he said. Farmers in the developing world often lack the ability to apply fertilizers and acquire seeds needed to produce the best yields. Because of this, a more balanced research agenda coupled with policies aimed at distributing the proper tools for food production are what the future needs.

“A great opportunity exists for scientists to work with non-governmental organizations,” Herdt said. “There is a need for researchers to be in the fields.”

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