Myths on hunger debunked:

Hunger is the result of excessively rapid population growth


Myth 2: Hunger is the result of excessively rapid population growth


World population increased by 133% from 3 billion in 1960 to more than 7 billion in 2012. World food production increased even faster, by 146% between 1961/63 and 2005/07. It increased by 255% for non-industrial countries over the same period. Despite this remarkable performance, there are still many hungry people in the world.

World population is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050, representing an increase of 29%. This has been estimated to imply a  60 to 70% increase in food demand because of changes in the level and composition of food consumed by people as their incomes rise (more meat, fruits and vegetables ; less cereals and tubers).

The rate of increase of production required for the 40 years to come will therefore be considerably less than what it was during the last four decades, even in the case the composition of diet continues to evolve according to past trends (see diagram). Moreover, the amount of food required to eliminate hunger today is very small compared to total food availability (less than 1% of total food production according to Trueba and MacMillan) and to the total food wasted.

Past (1961/63- 2005/07) and projected (2005/07 – 2050) evolution of agricultural production (increase in percentage)

Source : FAO

These figures may induce some optimism, as the effort required in the future will be much lower than what has been done in the recent past. There are, however, some important pending questions:

-Is this projected increase in production possible while adopting technologies that are less damaging to natural resources (soil, water, forests and genetic resources), produce less greenhouse gases and are more accessible to the mass of small producers who constitute the bulk of the hungry?

-Can future food consumption be based on diets that contain less animal products which are more demanding on natural resources and emit more greenhouse gases ?

       (read more on longer term issues)

It is hoped that changes in food consumption patterns that can already be observed (reduction of consumption of animal products) will be confirmed in the decades to come and that the pressure on our planet’s resources will be less than now expected. There is a need to find ways to encourage these directions of change.

Materne Maetz

(September 2012)


Last update:    September 2013

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