Rising human numbers is a significant cause of higher food prices and impending, potentially catastrophic global shortages. Investing in family planning and women’s empowerment would slow population growth and increase future food security.

There is rising anxiety over food security. Globalization and increasing consumption of input-intensive meat and dairy products by people who previously had a mainly vegetable and grain diet is adding to the fear. Potential food supplies are being lost to waste, to bio-fuel production and to depletion of agricultural lands by development and land overuse. Fisheries are in decline. Climate change induced weather patterns and limits to water, fertilizer and oil reserves loom menacingly over food production prospects. None of these issues offers easy solutions.

Meanwhile, human numbers are increasing by 8o million a year, more than twice the population of Canada. From 3.5 billion fifty years ago and 7 billion today, the world is likely to grow to 9 billion or more by 2045. This is not inevitable. Over 200 million women in developing countries want to delay or avoid pregnancies but for logistical or cultural reasons are not using modern contraception. Unplanned pregnancies are common, even in developed countries, due to poor sex education and limited family planning options. Only a few governments – not including Canada’s – are actively promoting the personal, social and global benefits of smaller families.

Canada is also a laggard in funding family planning in developing countries. Haiti, already very overpopulated and increasing in numbers at a staggering rate, can’t feed itself. It is one of the largest recipients of Canadian aid. However, Ottawa turns a blind eye to offering family planning programs, dollar-for-dollar the most effective aid one could give, and which is much in demand.

PIC believes we must devote far more attention to helping people to have smaller families if food security into the future is to be ensured. Without effective family planning, countries like Haiti are doomed to depend on costly imports of necessary food for their populations, imports they cannot nearly afford.



Editors’ notes:
World population prospects (UN)

World Environment Day 2013, 5th June, calls for improving food security through informed consumption choices.

Rye, Charlotte Are we entering a global food crisis?