The Environmental Food Crisis

lion. Similarly, while the proportion of impoverished persons might have declined in many regions, their absolute number has not fallen in some regions as populations continue to rise (UNDP, 2008). There are huge regional differences in the above trends. Globally, pov- erty rates have fallen from 52% in 1981 to 42% in 1990 and to 26% in 2005. In Sub-Saharan Africa, however, the poverty rate remained constant at around 50%. This region also comprises the majority of countries making the least progress in reducing child malnutrition. The poverty rate in East Asia fell from nearly 80% in 1980 to under 20% by 2005. East Asia, notably China, was successful in more than halving the proportion of underweight children between 1990 and 2006. In contrast, and despite improvements since 1990, almost 50% of the children are underweight in Southern Asia. This region alone accounts for more than half the world’s malnourished children. In addition to increasing demand for food by a rising population, observed dietary shifts also have implications for world food pro- duction. Along with rising population are the increasing incomes of a large fraction of the world’s population (Figure 5). The result is increasing consumption of food per capita, as well as changes in diets towards a higher proportion of meat. With growing incomes, consumption – and quantity of waste or discarded food – increases substantially (Henningsson, 2004).


Kilocalories per capita/day



Pulses Roots and tubers






Vegetable oils



Other cereals

The global production of cereals (including wheat, rice and maize) plays a crucial role in the world food supply, accounting for about 50% of the calorie intake of humans (Figure 6) (FAO, 2003). Any changes in the production of, or in the use of cereals for non-human consumption will have an immediate effect on the calorie intake of a large fraction of the world’s population. As nearly half of the world’s cereal production is used to produce animal feed, the dietary proportion of meat has a major influence on global food demand (Keyzer et al ., 2005). With meat consumption projected to increase from 37.4 kg/person/year in 2000 to over 52 kg/person/year by 2050 (FAO, 2006), cereal requirements for more intensive meat production may increase substantially to more than 50% of total cereal production (Keyzer et al ., 2005).






Figure 6: Changes in historic and projected com- position of human diet and the nutritional value. (Source: FAO, 2008; FAOSTAT, 2009).


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