Population and Food Supply

Table of contents

The term imbalance refers to a difference between the population’s demands for food and the actual food supply. It is estimated that the current population of the earth is six billion people.

There are two main theories that relate to population growth and food supply, these being the “Malthusian theory” and the “Boserup theory”. Thomas Malthus was an English clergyman and economist who lived from 1766 to 1834; Malthus expressed a pessimistic view over the dangers of overpopulation. He believed that the food supply was the main limiting factor to population growth. He also believed that human population increases geometrically whereas food supplies can only grow arithmetically. A Danish economist put the optimistic theory together in 1965 her name was Esther Boserup. She believed that an increase in population would stimulate technologists to increase food production. The sentence “Necessity is the mother of invention” sums up the Boserup theory.

Agricultural Responses

The green revolution is a worldwide agricultural movement but it all started in Mexico in 1944 and it involved the simultaneous development of 2 things; these include:

  • New varieties of food plants.
  • Altered agricultural practises that greatly increase crop yields.

When the green revolution started in Mexico in 1944, it was importing half its wheat but twenty years later it was able to export half a million tons of wheat due to the green revolutions effectiveness. Even though in theory it achieved what it was set up to do it still had many disadvantages. Many farmers who invested heavily in the new technologies brought in from the western world found themselves laden with massive debts. An example of this is the Punjab area of India where the debt in rural areas has run to a staggering fifty billion rupees. Also excessive pumping has led to a drop in groundwater and the water has become saline. Other problems cased by the green revolution include:

  • Human population growth
  • Diminished “biodiversity” in crops
  • Inherent soil fertility and water quality
  • Pesticides
  • Land degradation

Demographic Response

A demographic response to over population is China’s one child policy. This policy was brought in by the communist government in 1979 to try and reduce China’s ever-growing population. To aid this policy they brought in a law limiting a couple to only have one child. There are exceptions to this law ethnic minority are formal exceptions and families that produce a child with a mental or physical disabilities are sometimes allowed to have a second child. There is also financial incentives for couples to remain childless of only have one child. This however has had some very serious implications these include:

  • Human rights issues
  • Female infanticide
  • Sex imbalance
  • Aging population

The policy is also difficult to enforce in rural areas where the policy is more open to corruption as large families are needed to support their parents in old age. Sometimes pregnant women would even be sent to relatives so that a child would be unregistered.

This policy has proven to be fairly successful as it has managed to reduce population growth so that the population is remaining stable however it has not managed to reduced the population and it is not meeting its targets.

My conclusion is that both approaches to tackling this global problem have positives and negatives to be taken from them. But on the whole they are causing more problems than they are solving so therefore I believe that both solutions are failing.

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