How the Global Food Market Starves the Poor


How can 1 in 7 people be malnourished in the modern world? A beautifully illustrated video shows the causes.

To understand the complexities of the international food market–and how traders in Chicago can cause Africans to starve–you could get a ph.D. in economics, or read a 400-page report from the World Bank. Or you watch this superb nine minute video, directed by Denis van Waerebeke.

The video begins with a basic question: How is it that the first world has an oversupply of food, while 1 in 7 in the world go malnourished? Basically, farmers in developing countries have eschewed growing local food crops in favor of growing things like cotton for international export. For food, those countries instead import rice.

That can have disastrous effects. When cotton prices waver, trade revenues plunge, the economy sinks, and there’s not enough money for food imports. Obviously, that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but the basic story is real—it’s called food dependence.

The solutions will involve everyone, the world over. Those in the developing world will need to reignite local food chains. And everyone else will have to become smarter: By 2050, our world population will double. But it’s hard to imagine that we’ll be able to feed that many people if we keep on consuming like we do. Instead, we’ll have to rely on more sustainable farming techniques that don’t leave sterile land in their wake–and we’ll have to eat more vegetables and less meat–because every pound of meat takes about 7 to 12 times the resources to produce as a pound of veggies.

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