Thu, Jul 19, 2018 - Page 9 News List

A food revolution is needed to ensure the Earth’s survival

By Bob Geldof  /  LONDON

In 1984, I gathered the most successful musicians of the time to form a “supergroup” called Band Aid to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The next year, an even larger grouping was formed for Live Aid, a major benefit concert and music-based fundraising initiative that continues to this day.

At last month’s International Forum on Food and Nutrition, held by the Barilla Foundation, the enduring — and increasingly urgent — need for efforts to strengthen food security could not be more obvious.

The fate of the Easter Islanders illustrates the world’s problem. Some time in the 12th century, a group of Polynesians found their way to a remote volcanic island where dense forests provided food, animals, and the tools and materials to build hundreds of complex and mysterious stone sculptures.

However, little by little, the people destroyed those forests, ultimately committing social, cultural and physical suicide.

Today, in relative terms, we collectively have only a small swath of forest left — and we are rapidly destroying it. We are running out of land to farm and deserts are spreading.

The food we produce is often wasted, while almost 1 billion people do not have enough to eat — a reality that leaves many with little choice except to migrate.

Most media coverage focuses on refugees fleeing armed conflict — think Syria — or migrants seeking better economic opportunities than they have at home — think Nigeria or Pakistan.

However, the link between food scarcity and migration is stronger than it might seem to those who are not among the hungry.

For example, the Arab Spring uprisings of 2010 to 2011, which produced a massive wave of refugees, were triggered by a rise in wheat prices, which led to widespread bread riots that morphed into broader political revolutions.

In fact, many armed conflicts, and the mass displacement they cause, can be traced back to food insecurity.

While the poor south starves, the rich north gorges. More than 2 billion of us are overweight, puffed up by low-energy sugars and mass-produced processed foods rich in fat.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, just one-quarter of the food we throw out or squander each year would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people.

Worldwide, one-third of all crops are wasted. Like the Easter Islanders of the past, we are setting ourselves up for self-annihilation.

Moreover, human-driven climate change threatens to intensify existing pressures affecting food supply and migration.

In a report published in December last year, the European Commission’s European Political Strategy Center predicted that ever more frequent droughts and floods will “dwarf all other drivers of migration,” with as many as 1 billion people displaced globally by 2050.

Even the lowest estimate of 25 million climate-change migrants “would dwarf the current levels of new refugees and internally displaced persons,” the report says.

To be sure, some steps are being taken to address food waste and scarcity.

For example, this year, the European Commission proposed cuts in farm subsidies, which contribute to overproduction.

However, this approach — framed in terms of “evolution,” rather than the “revolution” that is needed — is not even remotely adequate.

The EU’s common agricultural policy has long been highly problematic.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top