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[SANET-MG] ending hunger in china
Ending hunger in China
Indur M Goklanya,
aOffice of Policy Analysis, US Department of the Interior, Washington,
DC 20240, USA
Available online 14 July 2005. Lancet 366,202-203
Your Editorial on ending hunger in China (May 21, p 1746)1 rightly notes
that it is a common misconception that “upping food production will
eliminate hunger”. But reducing food production by eschewing
yield-enhancing genetically modified crops, as you apparently favour,
will only make matters worse.
Basic economics tells us that if supply drops, prices will go up, more
people will be priced out of the market, and even more of China's rural
poor will go hungry.2 Lower prices also make it easier for governments
(and philanthropies) to purchase food for distribution to the needy. In
fact, lowering food prices by increasing food production is perhaps the
surest method of increasing poor people's access to the food supplies
they need. It is hardly surprising that the reduction in global hunger
(in both absolute numbers and as a proportion of the global population)
over the past half century has been accompanied by higher production and
lower food prices (in inflation-adjusted terms).2 and 3
Another method of reducing hunger is to increase the purchasing power of
the poor. Here, too, the bumper crops about which the Editorial is
dubious will be a boon. Wealthier farmers will boost the economy of
rural areas (where over 60% of China's population resides), which means
more rural jobs, more people with greater purchasing power, and,
therefore, less hunger.
You claim that China's approach, by which I presume you mean efforts to
enhance production, “will make little headway in feeding China's
malnourished millions unless the underlying causes of hunger—poverty and
inequitable access to land and trade—are properly addressed.” This is a
statement of intent, not a practical programme. What is your approach
for properly addressing these problems that have proved intractable for
millennia, and for bringing these lofty intentions to fruition?
The views expressed here are my own and not necessarily the US
government's nor any of its units.
I declare that I have no conflict of interest.
1 The Lancet, Biotech quick-fixes will not end hunger in China, Lancet
365 (2005), p. 1746.
2 IM Goklany, Saving habitat and conserving biodiversity on a crowded
planet, BioScience 48 (1998), pp. 941–953.
3 IM Goklany, The future of the industrial system. In: D Bourg and S
Erkman, Editors, Perspectives on industrial ecology, Greenleaf
Publishing, Sheffield (2003), pp. 194–222.
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