Environmental Degradation and Food Security

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Food security is becoming an increasing concern with rising global population growth and increasing environmental damage. In many developing countries, population growth is outpacing agricultural capacity. In the United States, decreasing investment in sustainable technology and cuts to family planning programs have left many families at risk for food insecurity. Because these problems are quickly intensifying, maintaining and improving access to food should be a major priority in the 21st century. In this paper, I’ll (1) define food security and discuss the reasons for a growing food insecurity in the United States, (2) explain the potential hazards that threaten our food supply in the United States and in other parts of the world, (3) explain the most likely reasons for growing food insecurity, and (4) discuss the populations in the United States at risk for food insecurity.

A population can be considered “food secure” when all members of the group have access – both physically and economically – to the basic food that they need to work and function normally (Moore 2007). In the United States, declining investment in technologies and cuts to family planning programs play a major role in growing food insecurity. In the past few decades, government funding for green-technologies has fallen along with public support for these types of programs. Though major gains in agricultural production have been made, these increases are unlikely to continue without further investment. Cuts to family planning programs have reduced access to food on an individual level. Since 1996, the United States has reduced family planning and population assistance programs by 35% (Moore 2007). Reductions to family planning can cause an increase in unintended pregnancies and population growth, increasing the number of people born into food-insecure situations.

Different hazards threaten our food supply in the United States compared to other parts of the world. In the United States, government policies and public attitudes play a large role in food insecurity. In other parts of the world, deforestation, soil degradation, desertification, and wetland losses all pose potential hazards to food security. In more than half of all developing countries, food production already falls behind population growth (Moore 2007). In Africa, the situation is particularly dire, as flooding threatens agricultural production and causes widespread food insecurity. In both the United States and in other parts of the world, the dual problems of population growth and environmental degradation contribute to increasing food insecurity.

Reasons for increasing food insecurity include the failure of government policies, rapid population growth, damage to essential ecosystems, and the inability of contemporary agricultural technology to produce food at a rate consistent with population growth. Food supplies are threatened by the increasing desertification and degradation of farming land in Illinois, by the degradation of valuable soil, and by the loss of wetlands necessary for food production. These problems are exacerbated by rapid population growth, particularly in developing countries. Though advances in agricultural technology have significantly reduced hunger for millions of people, they haven’t kept pace with the problems of population growth and environmental damage.

In the United States, more than 35 million Americans live in hungry or food-insecure households. Amongst these households, 25 million Americans resort to food distribution programs such as soup kitchens and food pantries to feed their families (Moore 2007). Poverty limits access to food and disproportionally affects racial minorities, single-parent households, and families with many children. Chronic undernutrition plagues low-income Americans and can affect children’s health and development (Cook and Frank 198). Together, food insecurity and poverty create a vicious cycle that low-income Americans find themselves unable to escape.

Food security is becoming a major concern in the 21st century. As population growth outpaces agricultural capacity, low-income families around the world suffer from rising food insecurity. Many people – both in the United States and in other parts of the world – lack access to the basic food needed to work and function normally. In the United States, food insecurity is exacerbated by decreased funding for sustainable technology and family planning programs. In other parts of the world, deforestation, soil degradation, desertification, and wetland losses all pose potential hazards to food security. These problems are compounded by rapid population growth and the failure of agriculture technology to keep pace with the needs of growing populations. In the United States, low-income families suffer the most. Because these problems are quickly intensifying, maintaining and improving access to food should be a major priority in the 21st century.

Works Cited

Cook, John T., and Deborah A. Frank. “Food Security, Poverty, and Human Development in the United States.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1136.1 (2008): 193-209. Print.

Moore, Gary S. Living With the Earth. Third Edition: Concepts in Environmental Health Science. Boca Raton, FL: Lewis Publishers, 2007. Print.