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Food security: Rising middle class spending power will also put pressure on food systems

By Nathan Gray+

10-Apr-2013
Last updated the 10-Apr-2013 at 12:35 GMT

Food security is not just about feeding millions of starving people in the developing world - its also about feeding an ever expanding middle class population who expect good food at cheap prices...
Food security is not just about feeding millions of starving people in the developing world - its also about feeding an ever expanding middle class population who expect good food at cheap prices...

An increasing middle class population will add extra complexity and pressure to the already daunting prospect of food security in the next 50 years, warn experts.

The global population is estimated to rise from seven billion currently to almost nine billion by the year 2040. Feeding an extra two billion people will itself be a daunting challenge; however an often overlooked challenge in the fight for food security is not that of feeding the poorest but that of feeding an ever expanding middle class population, according to Dr Ganesh Kishore CEO of the Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund .

"Providing enough food to prevent starvation and famine certainly will be a daunting problem. But we also have to meet the rising expectations of huge numbers of people who will be moving up into the middle class," said Kishore. "Their purchasing power is projected to be more than $60 trillion [€46.8 trillion] by 2040."

"The expanding middle class will demand food that doesn't just fill the belly, but food that's appetizing, safe and nourishing, convenient to prepare and available in unlimited quantities at reasonable prices," warned the expert.

"Producing food for a middle class that will number more than five billion within 30 years will strain existing technology for clean water, sustainable energy and other resources."

An ‘interconnected’ problem

Speaking at a symposium on ‘The Interconnected World of Energy, Food and Water’ at the American Chemical Society exposition, Kishore and a number of other experts explained that the growing difficulties in supplying enough food, water and energy for the global population is a problem ‘that must be understood together’.

“The reason for this interconnection is that we need water to produce both energy and food — whether it is about harvesting fossil fuel energy, producing biobased renewable energy or producing food, we need fresh water,” he said.

“It is not just about developing technology — we have to move the technology from the bench to the real world so that solutions see the light of day,” commented Kishore; who added that industry can help to bring technologies that may include plant biotechnology and tools of synthetic biology to expand the food supply in the ‘real world’.

Better regulation

To achieve this, he argued for better regulatory policies that not only keep pace with technology development “not just in places where the technology is developed but where the technology is deployed …and that requires science-based risk assessment capability and the creation of consumer confidence in the process."