Rising food insecurity?

I’ve been revising a paper on the potential impacts of increasing water scarcity (driven by climate change as well as other unsustainable practices). One of the areas facing the greatest risk is agriculture, and thus food production and food (in)security.

This weekend I read that “food prices hit 46-year high,” which is not a good sign. It gets worse:

The high prices come despite expectations that total global production of grains in 2021 will set an all-time record: 0.7% higher than the previous record set in 2020. But because of higher demand (in part, from an increased amount of wheat and corn used to feed animals), the 2021 harvest is not expected to meet consumption requirements in 2021/2022...

Since I am interested to see if this is “just me” or a sign of an increasing trend, I wanted to look into n-grams on this topic. The most famous — Google’s n-gram viewer — is for books, so I found one that focusses on TV news coverage (using captions 🙂 and got this “density function” for the string food AND (security OR insecurity) AND climate:

Here’s a word cloud from the transcripts linked to the search:


My one-handed conclusion is that we do indeed need to start worrying that our demand for food (and especially meat) in combination with increasing constraints on food supplies is increasing food insecurity for many of the world’s poor. Sure, the rich will be able to buy estate-grown coffee and organic lamb for a few decades more, but those poor people will be the source of both humanitarian (moral) crises and security risks for the rich.

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Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

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