Down the Hunger Spiral: Pathways to the Disintegration of the Global Food System

04 October 2019

Asaf Tzachor wrote a guest post for the blog series Averting Global Catastrophe (Council on Foreign Relations), which examines global catastrophic risks, including their likelihood and impact, and international cooperative measures to mitigate them.

"It is a tragic irony that one of the harbingers and hallmarks of modern civilization may bring about its demise: the system of agriculture.

In pursuit of safe, sufficient, and nutritious food for Earth’s 7.7 billion human inhabitants, agricultural leaders have invested in high-yielding crop varieties, innovated methods of fertilization, irrigation, and cultivation, and expanded farmlands and rangelands. With an agricultural system devoted as never before to a few staple grain crops that require little attention, and with the globalization of supply chains and agricultural trade, humanity's reliance on this undiversified structure, on a limited number of exporting countries, and resource-intensive cropping systems, has grown critical. Universal nutritional security is now contingent on just a handful of agricultural commodities.

Inadvertently, the pursuit of food security has led to forest clearing of unprecedented scale, to habitat fragmentation and biodiversity loss, to collapse of fisheries, and to climate change. These, in turn, threaten to destabilize the global food system."

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