Hunger Overview

Hunger Overview

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According to Food sovereignty: Reclaiming the global food system (2011) by War on Want,

•    In 2009, for the first time in human history, over a billion people were officially classified as living in hunger.

•    Per capita food production increased by 8% in South America and 9% in South Asia between 1970 and 1990, but the number of hungry people rose by 19% and 9% respectively in those regions, both key targets of the new green revolution technologies.

•    From 1970 to 1990, the two decades of most rapid Green Revolution expansion, the total food available per person in the world rose by 11%. The estimated number of hungry people fell from 942 million to 786 million, a decline of 16%.

•    Today, despite unprecedented wealth existing in the world, one in seven people go to bed hungry.

•    In 2010 the world’s four largest agrochemical companies and three largest grain traders together chalked up profits of around US$20 billion. The same sum would be enough to settle 20 million families each on their own plot of land, permanently resolving their problem of hunger.

•    Over the last two decades, MNCs have taken control of more than 1,000 once independent seed companies, so that the top 10 seed companies now account for 73% of the world’s commercial seed market (the top three companies alone account for over half).

•    In 1996 Monsanto was not even among the top 10 global seed companies, but by 2009 it was secure in first place, responsible for 27% of the global commercial seed market on its own.

•    By the end of 2007, the top 10 companies were responsible for 89% of agrochemical sales. Combined sales of agrochemical products in Latin America and Asia have now for the first time surpassed combined sales in North America and Europe.

•    The industrial food system discards (in the journey from farms to traders, food processors, stores and supermarkets) between a third and a half of all the food that it produces. This is enough to feed the world’s hungry six times over.

•    It is estimated that altogether–including cropping, livestock, transport, fertiliser and land use change–agriculture is responsible for 30% of the global greenhouse emissions that cause climate change.

•    The industrial food system is responsible for the eviction of millions of smallholders from their land, exacerbating rural poverty.

•    Some 150,000 farmers in India, overwhelmed by debts accrued by adopting unsustainable and expensive chemical farming techniques, have committed suicide.

•    Worldwide, up to 10 million hectares of agricultural land are lost annually as a result of severe degradation, largely the result of unsustainable farming practices.

•    The industrial food system is responsible for approximately a third of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions destroying our planet.

•    Around 2.5 billion people–men, women and children–live off the land worldwide, cultivating crops, rearing livestock and catching fish. Many of these farmers are small-scale producers, who are building on the valuable knowledge acquired by their forebears over hundreds of years.

•    Fully 70% of the world’s agricultural land is already devoted to livestock production, and the global production of meat is projected to double from its total of 229 million tones in 2000 to 465 million tonnes in 2050. Expansion of livestock is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America: 70% of previously forested land in the Amazon has been taken over for pasture, while feed crops cover a large part of the remainder.

•    Livestock farming is responsible for 18% of world greenhouse gas emissions – more than all forms of transport put together.

•    World poultry production increased from 8.9 million tonnes in 1961 to 70.3 million tonnes in 2001.

•    Today the USA remains the biggest soya bean producer, with an output of 80.7 million tonnes in the 2009-10 harvest, but Brazil (57 million tonnes) and Argentina (32 million tonnes) are catching up.

•    In 2001 alone the Indian government set up 60 agri-export zones, producing 40 agricultural commodities from mangoes and lychees to basmati rice and cumin. These zones have been bitterly criticised by farmers’ leaders in India, who say that the government should have used barren land for the zones rather than taking over fertile areas that were being used to produce food for the domestic market. They were also angry at the number of small farmers who were expelled from their plots to make way for the agri-export zones.

•    US farmers benefit from billions of dollars in subsidies which make up as much as 40% of US net farm income. This means that US farmers can afford to export their crops at well below production cost and still make a profit. The name for this practice is dumping, and it is supposedly illegal under WTO rules.

•    In recent years new factors are fuelling the land grab. One is biofuels, which are being promoted as a way of reducing the emissions of harmful greenhouse gases from transport. The European Union has passed legislation that requires 10% of transport fuels to come from biofuels by 2020, while the USA spends more than US$6 billion annually subsidising biofuels.


According to The State of Food Insecurity in the World: How does international price volatility affect domestic economies and food security? (2011), which has been produced by IFAD, WFP and FAO,   


• The total number of undernourished people in India during the period 2006-08 was 224.6 million, while that for China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan during the same time period were 129.6 million, 41.4 million, 3.9 million and 42.8 million, respectively.  

• The total number of undernourished people in India increased from 167.1 million during 1995-97 to 208.0 million during 2000-02 and further to 224.6 million during 2006-08.

• The proportion of undernourished in total population in India during 2006-08 was 19 percent, while that for China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan during the same time period were 10 percent, 26 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent, respectively. 

• The proportion of undernourished in total population in India increased from 17 percent during 1995-97 to 20 percent during 2000-02 but fell marginally to 19 percent during 2006-08. 

• During the world food crisis of 2006–08, domestic prices of rice and wheat were very stable in China, India and Indonesia because of government controls on exports of these crops.

• Public research institutes in countries such as Brazil, China and India are providing an increasing share of public goods in the area of agricultural research.

• In India, farmers underinvest in bullocks due to volatility in income.

• Between 2007 and 2008, the number of undernourished was essentially constant in Asia (an increase of 0.1 percent), while it increased by 8 percent in Africa.

• Prices of food commodities on world markets, adjusted for inflation, declined substantially from the early 1960s to the early 2000s, when they reached a historic low. They increased slowly from 2003 to 2006 and then surged upwards from 2006 to the middle of 2008 before declining in the second half of that year. 

• The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2011–2020 projects that world prices for rice, wheat, maize and oilseeds in the five years from 2015/16 to 2019/20 will be higher in real terms by 40, 27, 48 and 36 percent, respectively, than in the five years from 1998/99 to 2002/03.


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