The Revolt Against Big Food
Today’s food problem is not absolute scarcity. It is that food is so unequally distributed and irrationally consumed that the world’s most deprived people die or suffer from cognitive impairment because of undernutrition, while others face death or disease because of obesity.
NEW DELHI – Confounding the grim prediction made by the British economist Thomas Malthus in 1798, the world currently produces more than enough food for a population that has increased almost tenfold since then. Today’s food problem is not absolute scarcity. It is that food is so unequally distributed and irrationally consumed that there is widespread malnutrition at both ends of the spectrum: the world’s most deprived people die or suffer from cognitive impairment because of undernutrition, while others face death or disease because of obesity.
Modern patterns of food production and distribution are largely to blame. Production – even by smallholders – increasingly relies on cultivation techniques developed by large corporations. And food consumption around the world is becoming less healthy and sustainable, owing to aggressive marketing and the year-round supply of previously seasonal or faraway crops.
The problem is clear, yet little is being done to address it. A deep-seated complacency at the heart of the world’s business-driven food system is fast turning into hubris. The dominance of multinational agribusiness companies – “Big Food” – rivals that of big tech firms in the digital economy, and policymakers seem happy to encourage the widespread belief that only industrial agriculture can feed the world and meet increasing demand.
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