The Myth: Scarcity. The Reality: There Is Enough Food.

Frances Moore Lappé, Joseph Collins and Peter Rosset | 04.01.1998

Food First Backgrounder, Spring 1998, Vol. 5, No. 1

The Myth:

With food-producing resources in so much of the world stretched to the limit, there’s simply not enough food to go around. Unfortunately, some people will just have to go hungry. We must put all our efforts into boosting agricultural production in order to minimize hunger.

Our Response:

The world today produces enough grain alone to provide every human being on the planer with 3,500 calories a day. That’s enough to make most people fat! And this estimate does not even count many other commonly eaten foods—vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. In fact, if all foods are considered together, enough is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day. That includes two and half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs.

Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the supply of food in the world today. Increases in food production during the past 35 years have outstripped the world’s unprecedented population growth by about 16 percent. Indeed, mountains of unsold grain on world markers have pushed prices strongly downward over the past three and a half decades. Grain prices rose briefly during the early 1990s, as bad weather coincided with policies geared reward reducing overproduction, but still remained well below the highs observed in the early sixties and mid-seventies.

All well and good for the global picture, you might be thinking, but doesn’t such a broad stroke tell us little? Aren’t most of the world’s hungry living in countries with food shortages countries in Latin America, in Asia, and especially in Africa?