Food Riots have broken out in portions of the globe; for some time now the Egyptian Army has been baking bread for the people.
So what’s the problem given especially that last year’s grain crop was the largest ever in the history of the world.
Well, that is the problem, not under, but over-production.
At one point, the people who sold food were concerned with overproduction. They mourned the inelasticity of the human stomach.
Right now in the US of A, agribusiness produces twice as many calories per day per person as are necessary for the survival and good health of any one person. So let us say the average American requires for the purpose of survival and good health about 2000 calories a day. That we might say is what a person would “need,” with variations of course for larger men, smaller women, and children.
But the industry produces about 4000 calories per person per day. The cheapness of food (that goes along with over production) as well as mass advertising has encouraged individuals to eat further into that 2000 extra calories roaming around out there just waiting to be devoured.
The problem is, as one person puts it, food has become a commodity. Well, what else could it be, one might say. But the definition of a commodity these days is not that of things bought and sold, but of the individual’s subjective relation to the thing purchased. One “needs” 2000 calories, but one “desires” a Big Mac with heaps of bacon on top, plus cheese. Desire, endless desire, pushes people further and further into those 2000 surplus calories.
Another way to conceive the problem. Estimates in 2006 put the hungry at about 800 million and the obese at about 1 billion. That’s staggering. The problem will continue to grow as more developing nations adopt the eating habits of the West.
Marion Nestle in her book on the politics of food reports the fight and the failure finally of the nutritional people, against the pressure of the food industry, to get written on that Infamous Food Pyramid: Eat Less!