Oranges and pineapple

Why crop yields aren’t the right fix for global hunger

Members of the University of Michigan’s Sustainable Food Systems Initiative reviewed recent academic papers that discuss the United Nations goal of ending hunger and malnutrition worldwide by 2030.

They reviewed recent papers from three areas—ecology and agricultural sciences, nutrition and public health, and political economy and policy science—that mentioned the UN zero-hunger goal.

“Zero hunger” is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals that the UN adopted in 2015. The stated goal is to “end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” worldwide.

The two-pronged goal of tackling hunger and environmental sustainability is a tall order and will require “transformative political and economic change” that reshapes the global food system, the team concludes in the journal World Development.

Even so, many scholars choose to focus narrowly on increasing crop yields to solve world hunger while ignoring other key elements of the food system, including crop types, the environmental impacts of farming, processing, and distribution, and who has access to food.

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