Three paradoxes to solve

Three paradoxes to solve

June 03, 2016

Three paradoxes to solve

Can hunger and malnutrition be eradicated? Is there enough food for everyone on the planet? The answer is yes, but we must act to distribute resources more evenly. To combat inequalities in access to food, we need to act on two levels: one personal, involving individual life choices, and one social, involving our governments and regulators of food production and trade. Consequently, throughout 2014, the BCFN Foundation developed the Milan Protocol to raise awareness among the government, institutions and public opinion on the urgency to act to make the global food system genuinely sustainable.

Founded from an idea by the Foundation’s scientific committee, the Protocol is based on the opinions of over 500 international experts and has received backing from over one hundred organisations and 15,000 people. The three goals the Protocol has set itself are to promote healthy lifestyles, to boost more sustainable agriculture, and to reduce food waste by 50% by 2020. These goals are closely linked to three great paradoxes that humanity is experiencing this century.

Hunger and obesity
For every undernourished person there are now two obese or overweight people in the world. Even though ten times more people are dying from malnutrition than obesity, excess food (or the wrong food) still represents a fast-growing risk factor. While 36 million people die every year from malnutrition and famine, 3.4 million die from being overweight. This is the paradox of a system with unequal access to food.
The phenomenon of obesity has nearly doubled worldwide since 1980 and keeps growing by epidemic proportions: over 30% of adults now have a body mass index (BMI) above 25 (meaning they are overweight, while a BMI of 30 or above is considered obese). Furthermore, 44% of cases of diabetes, 23% of heart attacks and about 40% of tumours can be attributed to overeating or a poor diet.
There is clearly a global imbalance: while one part of the population eats too much (and poorly), the other eats too little. To eradicate this paradox, governments need to promote policies for fairer access to food.

People, animals or cars?
A third of agricultural cereal crops are used to produce animal feed and biofuels, despite the rampant spread of hunger and malnutrition. The global demand for biofuels will reach 172 billion litres by 2020, requiring 40 more million hectares of land to be converted for this type of crop.
This situation could exacerbate the global food shortage.

There is also a demand for water: while 4,000 children die every day because they do not have access to drinking water, 15,000 litres are needed to produce a kilo of beef.
This all triggers financial speculation: food commodity prices are influenced by the financial markets and may therefore be different from their actual production costs.
Consequently, we need to develop policies that promote sustainable forms of agriculture and production, and rebalance the ratio between land used for biofuels or animal feed and land used for food production. It is also important to urge supervisory and financial authorities to regulate financial speculation on food, addressing fluctuations in market prices and costs to guarantee food security.

Some waste food while others starve
1.3 billion tons of edible food is wasted every year, which accounts for a third of global food production and four times the amount needed to feed the 795 million undernourished people around the world. It is an established fact that behind waste there are problems with the way foods are produced and distributed, for example in industry and large-scale retail, but also poor individual habits, which can be changed with a little attention and planning.
Governments should help and encourage people who provide virtuous practices (such as redistributing expiring food that supermarkets would otherwise throw out among the poorest people) that can reduce food waste and tackle the causes of this phenomenon. Cooperation and potential long-term agreements among farmers, producers and distributors of food can help plan and forecast consumer demand so that production matches the actual needs of the population.

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