The idea of scarcity is perhaps the biggest challenge we face in addressing the world’s food needs. As long as food security policy and programs remain focused on solving scarcity, food security will remain focused on technical fixes for hunger: greater technology, greater inputs, greater efficiency. This narrative of scarcity has trumped any reasonable effort to measure actual levels of production in the world today, the return on greater technological inputs versus solving the causes of waste in existing systems, and even served as a useful foil through which to obscure the deepening unsustainability of the very agricultural systems that are often treated as a model, those here in the United States and Europe.
Edward Carr’s first blast on Doing Food Security Differently. No disagreement from me, yet.
One Reply to “Food security is not about scarcity”
Today, with the first big snow of the winter on the day of the vernal equinox, I was hiding by the fire reading a book. I then opened my computer and read this extract by Carr and thought: `That is an American writing’. The book was Lappé and Collins (1977) `Food First’. The subtitle is `Beyond the Myth of Food Scarcity’. The blurb reads: `We are not in a life and death contest between growing population and limited amounts of food’. Thirty-five years later Carr, also from the USA, seems to telling us the same: `There is no global crisis of food production. There is no neo-Malthusian reality that we are just now crashing into…’
To me, Carr seems to be setting up a `straw man’ argument – for example: `In short, the mantra of “better technology and more markets” as currently manifest in policy circles is unlikely to advance the cause of food security and address global hunger any more effectively than prior interventions based on a version of the same mantra.’. This is annoyingly difficult to challenge (perhaps designed to be so). But there remains for Africa the problem of accepting any mantra on food production (as with the `Food First’ book) from the USA, a country exporting vast surpluses of crops. I would first like to know how the USA got it so badly wrong (if it did) before telling Africa how to get it right.