Summary: People grow more than enough food to feed all people adequately. In 2017-2018, the world grew enough cereal grains to provide adequaternfood energy for 10 billion to 13 billion people. The world had about 7.6 billion people in 2017. Stocks of cereal grains carried forward fromrnprior harvests reached record highs amid plunging cereal grain prices, showing that the grain supply exceeded demand. Breakthroughsrnin agronomic productivity were unprecedented.rnThe dismal paradox is that, in 2017, roughly 800 million people were chronically hungry and 150.8 million children less than 5 years oldrnwere stunted from chronic undernutrition (22.2 percent of the 677.9 million children under 5 years of age). Many times more people werernchronically hungry than were acutely hungry as a result of famines due to warfare, environmental disruptions, or short-term governmental interventions. In the world market for cereal grains, chronically hungry people exercised less effective demand (demand supported by customers’ orders and capacity to pay) than people who bought the grains to feed animals or for industrial production, or who chose to store it for future sale. As a result, people consumed less than half (42.8 percent) of the cereal grains grown last year.rnThe hunger of those too poor to pay for enough food is economically invisible in current grain markets. But the cumulative effects ofrnchildhood stunting from chronic undernutrition lower national income substantially in developing countries. Governments, backed byrninternational economic institutions, should float hunger bonds to patient investors, public and private, to eradicate chronic hunger todayrnin return for a healthier, more productive labor force tomorrow. Purely economic arguments alone justify eradicating chronic hunger.rnEconomic analyses ignore the intrinsic value of fewer children dying young and of fewer surviving brains damaged by hunger. The moral boundaries of markets moved over the past two centuries to exclude slavery. In a world of superabundant food, the moral boundaries of markets should move again to end the assumption and practice that a person’s ability to pay for food determines whether he or she goes hungry.
Biography: Joel E. Cohen is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of Populations at The Rockefeller University and Columbia University, New York. He studies populations, ecosystems, and environments using mathematical, statistical, and computational tools. His work focuses on human health, other species humans interact with, and the human environment. Recent examples include food webs, insect-borne infections, tornadoes, and human population dynamics. Cohen has used modeling to make projections about asbestos-related injuries, future population growth, international migration, and lifespan. He has published 14 books, including How Many People Can the Earth Support? and a book of scientific and mathematical jokes, and more than 430 scientific papers and chapters. He has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Project Syndicate, Discover, Scientific American, and New York Review of Books. His video introduction to demography, An Introduction to Demography and Population Study through an Examination of the World’s Population (Youtube), has been viewed more than 200,000 times. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society. Cohen earned two doctorates at Harvard University, one in applied mathematics and another in population sciences and tropical public health.