OPINION | The Food Paradox: Crisis, Hunger, Climate change & Economics
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OPINION | The Food Paradox: Crisis, Hunger, Climate change & Economics

By Anshul Saini

Image Attribute: DFAT Photo Library/Flickr/Creative Commons

Food! We all love this tantalizing subject. To some, a mere mention of the word ‘food’ activates their taste buds and raises a desire to consume it. People like it salty, sweet, crispy, warm or cold.

Food and social habits are considerably interrelated. Our eating habits are shaped by multiple factors such as our place, community, culture, friends, climate and more. There have also been phrases used in literature about food, such as ‘you are what you eat’, which means that food enjoys a lot more significance in human life than being a source of energy. 

It has been an initial reason for colonial-era English seafarers to find an alternate way to India (in search of spices) after they lost Constantinople to Turks.

As per the U.N. University [1], shortage of food has been a cause of the economic and geopolitical crisis and has also been used as a tactic of submission during conflicts. With the ongoing climate change [2], the food crisis is all set to grow up harming the not so fortunate, including animals.

What used to be a humble and moral act in several cultures is now a point of debate.

Food Wastage

Globally, a third of total food produced is wasted [3]. While in developing nations, lack of food storage and transportation infrastructure leads to such losses, amongst developed nations, consumers waste almost as much food (222 million tons) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons)”.

Water Stress

Vegetation requires water for cultivation. Meat too needs flourishing vegetation that acts as a food for poultry, dairy etc. As one studies the chart below [4], a direct conclusion is that Vegetarian food requires lesser water as compared to meat and eggs.

Apart from food practices, the overall water management needs a strong re-look. As per an article by Economist [5], by the middle of the century, more than half of the planet will live in areas of “water stress”, where supplies cannot sustainably meet demand. Lush pastures will turn to barren desert and millions will be forced to flee in search of fresh water.”

Vegetation or meat, water availability is a precursor to satisfy food requirement and hence has to be addressed.

Embedded Water Content by Weight and Nutritional Value

Improper use of farm land

While biofuels came as an alternative to fossil fuel, it increased pressure on land and water. Food or fuel is rather a difficult to answer situations considering that all the nations are trying to reduce their dependency on fossil fuels. In 2011, about 40% [6] of U.S. corn was used to make biofuels – it would have been used to counter food crisis?  There are debates with studies representing both the sides, but the truth remains that land is a limited currency. It is for us to choose how to use it, for food or for fuel.


Ultimately, all crises boil down to the economy. Poverty is one of the key reasons that people are not able to afford to feed themselves. Lack of food means lack of nutrition, which in turn makes them more vulnerable to diseases and this cycle, when aggravate, may lead to conflicts and wars, which further ignites a vicious cycle leading to the food crisis.

Inhuman food practices

Case: Meat & Dairy Industry

Apparently, the meat industry itself is responsible for cruel acts we humans get into. Chicks, as they come out of the egg face this brutal truth that there are 50% chances of being crushed, drowned or burned to death alive because they are male chickens. Know more about this brutal truth. (To learn more, click here)

The female chicks get their beaks removed while they are completely conscious. Bovines too go through cruel dehorning processes. Similar is the case for any meat farm. Hence this food is a symbol of pain and agony that the animals go through because of inhuman food practices

What used to be called as ‘nectar’ in several cultures, may now be intoxicated with hormones such as oxytocin, estrogen, and may be contaminated with pesticides, leading to health disorders amongst those who consume this. The milk we consume may also represent a young calf taken away from its mother so that his rightful right of milk can be consumed by us humans.

While most of the sources for the above article have been taken from an Indian context, the situation is applicable to the world.

About the Author:

Anshul Saini is a digital media professional with over 6 years’ experience in Infrastructure, Food, and Real Estate sectors. He holds a Master of Science degree in Marketing from University of Glamorgan, UK, (now University of South Wales) and has also attended the ‘Stepping into Leadership’ program from Indian School of Business, Mohali, India.  Anshul enjoys strong interest on the subjects of Sustainability, Food and Place Marketing.  He tweets at @anshulsainee

AIDN0031020170073/ INDRASTRA / ISSN 2381-3652


[1] Conflict as a cause of hunger 

[2] Climate change 'set to fuel global food crisis' 

[3] SAVE FOOD: Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction 

[4] India is the biggest virtual exporter of water 

[5] Water scarcity Liquidity crisis, The Economist 

[6] Biofuels are driving food prices higher