Biobased Bioplastics vs Food Shortage

Will the usage of renewables such as corn for the creation of biobased bioplastics aggravate world hunger?

Hunger is a social disease linked to poverty, and thus any discussion of hunger is incomplete without a discussion of economics. If we’re going to speak meaningfully about hunger, we need to understand the true causes of hunger.

The real reason behind world hunger was already mentioned in the NY Times back in Dec of 1981:

Why, then, does widespread caloric deprivation persist? Why has the real progress that has been made not eliminated hunger altogether? The answer, a surprising number of international food experts agree, is that hunger is overwhelmingly the result of income inequality and poverty. Until these stubborn social and economic problems are solved, no amount of tinkering with relief programs or population control will eradicate world hunger….”

The problem persists today. According to the Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, the world’s farmers produce enough food to feed 1.5x the global population. That’s enough to feed 10 billion (we are at 7.6 billion currently).

People are hungry because they are too poor to buy food. There is a shortage of purchasing power, not a shortage of food.

WHO estimated that 820 million people did not have enough to eat in 2018, up from 811 million in the previous year, which is the third year of increase in a row. Hunger is increasing in many countries where economic growth is lagging. The report also found that income inequality is rising in many of the countries where hunger is on the rise, making it even more difficult for the poor, vulnerable or marginalized to cope with economic slowdowns and downturns.

To put it simply, our Earth generates enough food for all, but sadly, it’s the interplay of economic forces and politics that decides who gets more, less or none. It is not a question of whether we have enough food or how we deal with them, it is a question of how we can distribute the right food, at the right time to the right people.

Furthermore there are many sustainable resources which can be used to derive biobased bioplastics, not just corn alone, even though the crops ( in the case of Generation 1 and 2 bioplastics), used now is considered a non preferred food source compared to the quality ones found in the supermarkets.

As long as consumers are moving in the right direction of replacing biobased bioplastics over traditional petroleum based ones, the bioplastic industry will continue to introduce better and more exciting materials to come. Generation 3 is a good example where we harness biotechnologies to create suitable biopolymers instead of using food crops.