Economists are not dismal, the world is not a Petri dish and other reasons for optimism



Richard Tiffin, Food Economics and Marketing, University of Reading, Ag BuildingEarley Gate, Reading RG6 6AR, UK. Tel: +44 118 378 8965; Fax: +44 118 975 6467; E-mail:


One of the recurrent themes in the debate around how to ensure global food security concerns the capacity of the planet to support its growing population. Neo-Malthusian thinking suggests that we are in a situation in which further expansion of the population cannot be supported and that the population checks, with their dismal consequences envisaged by Malthus, will lead to a new era of stagnant incomes and population. More sophisticated models of the link between population and income are less gloomy, however. They see population growth as an integral component of the economic growth which is necessary to ensure that the poorest achieve food security. An undue focus on the difficulties of meeting the demands of the increasing population risks damaging this growth. Instead, attention should be focused on ensuring that the conditions to ensure that economic growth accompanies population growth are in place.