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Development Economics Paper
The Economics of Food
Partha Dasgupta
July 1997
Paper No' DEDPS 04:

Tags: food composition; environmental resources; photosynthesis; future population; undernourishment; poverty traps; world hunger; property rights.

In this article I argue that, in contrast to what is implicitly assumed in many popular writings on food security in the future, the interface that connects the problems of population growth, poverty, environmental degradation, food insecurity, and civic disconnection should ideally be studied with reference to a myriad of communitarian , household, and individual decisions; or, in other words, that if we are to reach a global, futuristic vision of the human delimma, we need to adopt a local, contemporary lens. I argue that the all-or-nothing position often adopted in current writings is almost certainly misleading; both theory and evidence suggest that, just as today, large bodies of the world's population in 2020 (the point by which world population will have passed 8 billion) will go hungry, even as large numbers continue to enjoy affluence; that women, children, and the old will continue to be the most vulnerable of people; that the stress on ecosystems will be even grater than it is today, and that this may well create further stresses on civic connection. I will also argue that a prime target for national and international economic policy reforms should be the institutions (in particular, the structure of poverty rights) within which individuals, households, firms, and communities go about their business.