'Epidemic of food riots' could trigger society collapse by 2040, warn scientists

Reuters / Toby Melville
With the global demand for food on the rise, our society could collapse as soon as in 2040 due to fatal food shortages and "unprecedented epidemic of food riots," if counter measures are not taken, researchers have warned.

Food security experts and analysts in the field of the economics of sustainable development were asked to develop the worse-case scenario illustrating a "plausible, relatively-severe production shock affecting multiple agricultural commodities and regions."

According to a report from Lloyds of London prepared with the help of Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute, "the global food system is under chronic pressure to meet an ever-rising demand, and its vulnerability to acute disruptions is compounded by factors such as climate change, water stress, ongoing globalization and heightening political instability."

Researchers say that the food system is becoming “increasingly vulnerable to acute shocks,” driven by the world’s population growth and shifts in consumption patterns as countries develop. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projects that global agricultural production will need to more than double by 2050 to close the gap between food supply and demand, the report, supported by UK's Foreign Office says.

Reuters / Toby Melville

"A shock to the global food supply could trigger significant claims across multiple classes of insurance, including (but not limited to) terrorism and political violence, political risk, business interruption, marine and aviation, agriculture, environmental liability, and product liability and recall," the report warns, adding that these losses could be aggravated by the potential for a food system shock to last for years to come.

The Director of the Global Sustainability Institute, Dr. Aled Jones, told Insurge Intelligence that "based on plausible climate trends, and a total failure to change course, the global food supply system would face catastrophic losses, and an unprecedented epidemic of food riots."

"We ran the model forward to the year 2040, along a business-as-usual trajectory based on ‘do-nothing’ trends — that is, without any feedback loops that would change the underlying trend," he said.

"In this scenario, global society essentially collapses as food production falls permanently short of consumption," Jones added.

READ MORE: Children forced to live on £1 a day ‘ultimate losers’ of welfare reforms – study

According to new research, thousands of children in the UK are being pushed into severe poverty and hunger because their parents cannot work or receive government benefits. Researchers from the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at the University of Oxford say children appear to be the “ultimate losers,” with thousands subsisting on as little as £1 (US$1.57) per person per day.

Families across the UK are being forced to cut spending on essential items such as food, clothing and heating as a result of government cuts to child benefits, with low-earners among the hardest hit, as always. The number of British people relying on food banks is soon expected to reach one million, according to the Trussell Trust.

READ MORE: NY food banks seek $16 million in state funding to restock their barren shelves

In New York, about 2.6 million people have trouble affording food, and must make a life-threatening choice between eating and paying for other necessities like rent, medication, child care or transportation, according to the Food Bank For New York City. Some 17 million elderly Americans are in need of government-funded meal services, but according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office, 90 percent of them don't receive it. About 83 percent of those adults in need are food insecure.

Meanwhile, according to the UN, one-third of food globally (1.3 billion tons each year) is spoiled or wasted before it is consumed by people, causing losses of $750 billion, as well as significant damage to the environment.

Last month the French government took measures to minimize food waste, banning large supermarkets from destroying unsold products. From now on they will be forced to donate unsold, but still edible goods to charities or farms. Food that is past a firm expiration date would go to farms to be used as animal feed or compost. The new law, along with an education program about food waste introduced in schools and businesses, is part of an effort by Paris to halve the amount of food waste in France by 2025.