FEW of us would want even our bitterest enemy to starve. We might want them deprived of their liberty, or forced into hard labour, or even executed. But if they are to live it seems only right to allow them the calories to keep going.
Nor, logically, should there be any problem in delivering those calories. A new joint study by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the UN Fund for Population Activities shows that, in the developing world as a whole, twice the existing population could be fed using even the most basic agricultural techniques. This is not to deny that there are problems of supply within individual countries but, at the global level at least, there need be no serious gap between population growth and food production. Indeed the same study shows in more futuristic terms that, if the land in the Third World were given over to high-technology agriculture by the year 2000, then ten times the population of the developing countries could be fed — even allowing for a 50 per cent population increase.
So humanitarian concern and technical possibility would both seem to conclude that no-one should go hungry. Neither of these two, however, are what determine whether people will eat. It is the law of supply and demand — that will hold sway — the magic of the marketplace.
Market-place theories and arguments can in some cases produce a reasonable answer but the end result in this case is something very undesirable. According to this way of thinking people need not necessarily be fed properly; if they do get food so much the better, but there is nothing inherent in the system to say they will. And people do go hungry. According to UNICEF there are 200 million children around the world who do not get enough food to eat.
Could it be put any clearer than that? Yes, it probably could, and in an attempt to express some of the same ideas even more directly we have given over the central section of this month’s New Internationalist to our friends from the Institute for Food and Development Policy in San Francisco. They have approached the issue in an entirely visual way and have produced a cartoon which we hope will not only interest our existing readers but also engage the attention of friends and relatives, parents and children — indeed anyone not yet convinced they should be reading the New Internationalist.
Some readers might not find this treatment as rigorous as they would like. Those who like words printed closer together are recommended also to read ‘Food First’ by Frances Moore Lappe and Joseph Collins — the book which inspired the comic. You will find details of this in the action section.
Meanwhile... if you are sitting comfortably...
'Somewhere in the suburban United States...'
This special report appeared in the food first - a cartoon voyage of discovery issue of New Internationalist. You can buy this magazine or, to get stories like this one through your door every month, subscribe.