High food prices are being driven more by overconsumption in the United States than by growing demand in the Third World.
Recently, President George W. Bush attributed rising food prices to India’s growing middle class. But while the per-capita food intake in India is 2,440 calories per day, people in the United States eat an average of 3,770 calories per person per day – a whopping 50 percent more, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.
“To say that demand for food in India is causing increase in global food prices is completely wrong,” said Jairam Ramesh, Indian minister of state for commerce.
In addition, people in the United States throw away more food than those in most other countries, said Kamal Nah, Indian minister for commerce and industry. At the same time, high subsidies to farmers in Western countries make it hard for food producers in Africa and other parts of the Third World to compete economically, forcing them out of business.
The United States is also the world’s largest per capita beef consumer, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Beef is the most energy-intensive of all common food sources.
The recent surge in food prices has been attributed, in part, to rising petroleum prices, which force up the costs of producing and transporting food in an industrial economy. But the United States and Canada are the world’s top two per capita oil consumers, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Pradeep Mehta, secretary general of the India-based CUTS Center for International Trade, Economics and Environment, said that if people in the United States adopted the diet of a typical middle-class Indian, “many hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa would find food on their plates.”
The money no longer being spent on liposuction, he added, could then be donated to famine relief funds.
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