In recent years, scientists have been trying to alert governments, who are turning a deaf ear: the global food system is looking more and more like the global financial system as 2008 approaches.
If the collapse of finance would have been catastrophic for human well-being, the consequences of a collapse of the food system are unimaginable. However, the worrying signs are multiplying rapidly. The current spike in food prices looks like the latest sign of systemic instability.
Many assume that this crisis is the consequence of the pandemic, associated with the invasion of Ukraine. Both of these factors are crucial, but they compound an underlying problem. For years, world hunger seemed on the way out. The number of undernourished people fell from 811 million in 2005 to 607 million in 2014. But the trend reversed from 2015, and from [selon l’ONU] hunger is on the rise : it affected 650 million people in 2019 and it again affected 811 million people in 2020. The year 2022 promises to be even worse.
Prepare now for much more terrible news: this phenomenon is part of a period of great abundance. World food production has been rising steadily for more than fifty years, at a much faster rate than population growth. In 2021, the world wheat harvest broke records. Unexpectedly, more humans suffered from undernourishment as global food prices began to fall. In 2014, when the number of malnourished people was at its lowest level, food price index [de la FAO] was at 115 points; it fell to 93 in 2015 and remained below 100 until 2021.
This index has only peaked in the past two years. Soaring food prices are now a major driver of inflation, which hit 9% in the UK in April 2022 [5,4 % en France pour l’indice harmonisé]. Food is becoming unaffordable for many people in rich countries; the impact in poor countries is much more serious.
Interdependence makes the system fragile
So what’s going on? Globally, food, like finance, is a
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