Global Food Production

This GCSE Geography quiz looks at global food production. The production and distribution of food is just one example of how globalisation has affected our lives. When you pick an item off the shelf of a supermarket, you probably don't think about where it has come from or how it reached the shelf. The way that world food needs are met is complex and the demand for food is constantly increasing as the population increases. The food supply chain is also complex and can involve several countries. Food produced in one country could be processed and packaged in a different country before being sold around the world.

Global food consumption is uneven. In MEDCs, the over-consumption of food leads to health problems like obesity and heart disease.

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In LEDCs, the opposite is true and in some countries over half of their population is suffering from under-nutrition. The reasons for food shortages are population increases, increasing wealth and more extremes of weather.

Every year, the population of the world increases. MEDCs are able to import more food from LEDCs. The LEDCs turn more land over to commercial farming for export which leaves less land for subsistence farming. As populations of emerging economies become generally wealthier, they demand more meat and dairy produce. More land is used for rearing animals and some of the food e.g. grains like wheat and barley that could be grown for humans is given to the farmed animals so less reaches the market. The production of a single kilogram of meat takes around five kilograms of grain. More extreme weather means that crops can be unexpectedly lost owing to drought, heavy rain or high winds.

There are two contrasting views about global resource shortages like food. The first one is rather negative and was suggested by Thomas Malthus in the 18th century, well before globalisation or the idea of the welfare state had become established. He believed that as the population grew faster than food could be grown, the population growth would be kept in check and even reduced by starvation and wars for control over food and other resources. He called this a positive check. He also supposed that people might try to slow the population growth by having smaller families and gave this a name too, he called it a preventative check.

The more positive view came in the 1960s when globalisation was well under way. Esther Boserup wrote that people will find ways around the food shortages by inventing new ways of growing crops and animals. We do in fact see this in operation today with genetic modification and selective breeding being used to increase the yields of crops and to make them more resistant to pests and drought.

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  1. In MEDCs, food is readily available. What problems does this cause?
    In several MEDCs, obesity and heart disease are a big problem for the health services as populations consume more food than they actually need
  2. Which of the following is a true statement.
    Make sure that you know the reasons why the world demand for food is changing
  3. Which one of the following is NOT an effect of the globalisation of food production?
    Subsistence farmers produce only enough food for their own needs
  4. Which of the following is the name given by Thomas Malthus to a decline in population due to food shortages?
    The word 'check' has several meanings, in this context, it means stopping or slowing down (the population growth)
  5. What are 'food miles'?
    Food miles are just one of the factors that are considered when assessing the environmental impact of global food production
  6. Food security is:
    Food security is usually less in LEDCs than in MEDCs
  7. Which of the following methods of transporting food around the globe would be the most likely to have the lowest carbon footprint?
    Transporting food by air has the greatest carbon footprint as the quantities that are carried are relatively small
  8. There are several causes of global food shortages, which of the following is NOT one of them?
    Countries who produce more than they can eat can sell their excess to other countries
  9. Which of the following factors does NOT threaten international food security?
    International food prices vary and when they are high, this can cause food security issues for small, import-dependent countries
  10. How are scientists trying to help to solve the problems of world food shortages?
    By producing crops with a greater yield, more food can be grown on existing farms. Some people don't agree with the idea of genetically modified food

Author: Kev Woodward

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