Notes and sources for “Myth: Too Many Mouths to Feed”

With kind permission from Peter Rosset of the Institute for Food and Development Policy (or as it is also known), chapter 3 of World Hunger: 12 Myths, 2nd Edition, by Frances Moore Lappé, Joseph Collins and Peter Rosset, with Luis Esparza (fully revised and updated, Grove/Atlantic and Food First Books, Oct. 1998) has been reproduced and posted here. Due to the length of the chapter, it has been split into sub pages on this site.

  1. Ben J. Wattenberg, "The Population Explosion Is Over," The New York Times Magazine (November 23, 1997): 60-63.
  2. Shrinking populations can lead to an age distribution dominated by elderly people, with increasing numbers of middle-aged, childless couples.
  3. Unless indicated otherwise, all population growth and fertility figures in this chapter come from World Population Prospects: The 1996 Revision, the conservative and most widely accepted set of population data and projections, produced periodically by the highly regarded Population Division of the Department for Economic and Social Information and Policy Analysis, United Nations, New York. The projections produced by the division are known popularly as the "UN Projections."
  4. Thomas Merrick et al., "Population Dynamics in Developing Countries," in Population and Development: Old Debates, New Conclusions, ed. Robert Cassen (Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ, 1994), 79-105.
  5. World Population Prospects, various projections throughout.
  6. Merrick et al., "Population Dynamics," 82.
  7. World Population Prospects, annex 1, 10-11.
  8. Tomas Frejka, "Long-Range Global Population Projections: Lessons Learned," in The Future Population of the World, ed. Wolfgang Lutz (London: Earthscan Publications, 1996), 5, table 1.1.
  9. "End of World Population Growth Projected for 21st Century," International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis News Release (October 9, 1996), 1.
  10. Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb (New York: Sierra Club/Ballantine, 1968).
  11. A similar reiteration of arguments over time, never borne out by subsequent history, can be seen in the following works by Lester R. Brown: "The World Outlook of Conventional Agriculture," Science 158 (1967):604-611; By Bread Alone (New York: Praeger, 1974); State of the World 1990 (New York: W. W. Norton); and Tough Choices: Facing the Challenge of Food Security (New York: W. W. Norton, 1996), among others.
  12. Paul Ehrlich, The Population Explosion (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990).
  13. A good summary of the evidence for fertility decline can be found in The Future Population of the World: What Can We Assume Today? ed. Wolfgang Lutz (London: Earthscan Publications, 1996).
  14. For example, see the many publications of the Population Council available on the web at See also Rockefeller Foundation, High Stakes: The United States, Global Population and Our Common Future (New York: Rockefeller Foundation, 1997).
  15. 1990 hectares-per-capita values are: Trinidad and Tobago 0.09, Guatemala 0.20 (World Resources Institute, World Resources 1992-93 [New York: Oxford University Press, 1992], table 18.2). 1987 prevalence-of-stunted-children values are: Trinidad 5.0, Guatemala 57.9 (Food and Agricultural Organization, The Sixth World Food Survey [Rome: FAO, 1996], table 8, appendix 2).
  16. Per capita cropland from the World Resources Institute, World Resources 1992-93 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), table 18.2. Life expectancy from World Bank, Human Development Report 1994 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), table 2.
  17. Per capita cropland from World Resources 1992-93, table 18.2.
  18. Calculated from World Resources, table 18.2; Bread for the World Institute Hunger, 1997: What Governments Can Do (Silver Spring, MD, 1996), table 4; and World Bank, Human Development Report, 1994, table 13.
  19. Per capita, the Netherlands has only about one-thirteenth the cropland of the United States. Yet if the people of the Netherlands consumed all they produce (i.e., did not export food), almost five thousand calories of food would be available per person, not even counting imports. Calculated from Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO Food Balance Sheets, 1992-1994 (Rome: FAO, 1995).
  20. Frederick H. Buttel and Laura T. Raynolds, "Population Growth, Agrarian Structure, Food Production, and Food Distribution in the Third World," in Food and Natural Resources, ed. David Pimentel and Carl W. Hall (New York: Academy Press, 1989), 325-361.
  21. John Vandermeer, Reconstructing Biology: Genetics and Ecology in the New World Order, (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1996), ch. 14. In his now classic 1980 study, another ecologist, William W. Murdoch, found much the same thing-namely, that inequality was the key determinant of population growth The Poverty of Nations: The Political Economy of Hunger and Population (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980).
  22. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Echoes from the Past (New York: Planned Parenthood, 1979), 181.
  23. M. T. Cain, "The Economic Activities of Children in a Village in Bangladesh," Population and Development Review 3 (1977): 201-228, cited in Murdoch, Poverty of Nations, 26.
  24. M. Nag, B. White, and R. C. Peet, "An Anthropological Approach to the Study of the Economic Value of Children in Java and Nepal," Current Anthropology 19 (1978): 293-306.
  25. Murdoch, Poverty of Nations, 45.
  26. Frances Moore Lappé and Rachel Schurman, Taking Population Seriously (San Francisco: Food First Books, 1990), 26-27.
  27. See Lant H. Pritchett, "Desired Fertility and the Impact of Population Policies," Population and Development Review 20, no. 1 (March 1994): 1-55. See also Paul Schultz, "Human Capital, Family Planning, and Their Effects on Population Growth," American Economic Review 84, no. 2 (May 1994): 255-260. While some birth control advocates have criticized this view (for example, James C. Knowles et al., "The Impact of Population Policies: Comment," Population and Development Review 20, no. 3 [1994]: 611-615; and John Bongaarts, "The Impact of Population Policies: Comment," Population and Development Review, 20, no. 3 [1994]: 616-620), the weight of evidence supports the position that under the vast majority of circumstances people have the number of children they want (see Lant H. Pritchett, "The Impact of Population Policies: Reply," Population and Development Review 20, no. 3 [1994]: 621-630). Some studies purport to show that the presence of family planning programs is the key element leading to fertility decline; nevertheless, their own data generally support the view that people take advantage of these programs when they want them, in order to have the number of children that make sense from the point of view of economic development and improved education and economic opportunity for women (see, for example, Paul J. Gertler and John W. Molyneaux, "How Economic Development and Family Planning Programs Combined to Reduce Indonesian Fertility," Demography 31, no. 1 [1994]: 33- 63, 57-58, 60). The editors of a recent volume comparing four cases of fertility decline conclude that "fertility change occurs with or without access to modern contraception" (Understanding Reproductive Change: Kenya, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Costa Rica, ed. Bertil Egerö and Mikael Hammarskjöld [Lund, Sweden: Lund University Press, 1994], 20).
  28. Lappé and Schurman, Taking Population Seriously, 26.
  29. Ibid., 29.
  30. U.S. Agency for International Development, Sri Lanka: The Impact of PL 480 Title I Assistance, AID Project Impact Evaluation, Report no. 39 (Washington, DC: U.S. Agency for International Development, October 1982), C-8.
  31. World Population Prospects: The 1996 Revision, 378, annex 2 and 3.
  32. Medea Benjamin, Joseph Collins, and Michael Scott, No Free Lunch: Food and Revolution in Cuba Today (New York: Grove Press/Food First Books, 1986), 26.
  33. Ibid., 92. In 1983, in fact, the Organization of American States reported that Cuba ranked second in per capita food availability in Latin America. See also Peter Rosset and Medea Benjamin, ed., The Greening of the Revolution: Cuba's Experiment with Organic Agriculture (Melbourne: Ocean Press, 1994), 10, table 1.
  34. World Population Prospects: The 1996 Revision, 154, annex 2 and 3.
  35. S. Kumar, The Impact of Subsidized Rice on Food Consumption in Kerala, Research Report no. 5 (Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute, 1979).
  36. A. V. Jose, "Poverty and Inequality: The Case of Kerala," in Poverty in Rural Asia, ed. Azizur Rahman Khan and Eddy Lee (Bangkok: International Labour Organization, Asian Employment Programme, 1983), 108.
  37. John Ratcliffe, "Social Justice and the Demographic Transition: Lessons from India's Kerala State," in Practicing Health for All, ed. D. Morley, J. Rohde, and G. Williams (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 65. See also John Ratcliffe, "Toward a Social Justice Theory of Demographic Transition: Lessons from India's Kerala State," Janasamkhya (Kerala University, June 1983) 1.
  38. Lappé and Schurman, Taking Population Seriously, 58-59.
  39. Richard W. Franke and Barbara H. Chasin, Kerala: Radical Reform as Development in an Indian State, 2nd ed. (Oakland: Food First Books, 1994), ii.
  40. World Bank, World Development Report 1984, table 28.
  41. U.S. Agency for International Development, Women of the World: A Chartbook for Developing Regions (Washington, DC: Bureau of the Census, 1985), 30-33.
  42. Paul Schultz, "Human Capital, Family Planning, and Their Effects on Population Growth," American Economic Review 84, no. 2 (May 1994): 255-260.
  43. Matthew Lockwood, "Development Policy and the African Demographic Transition: Issues and Questions," Journal of International Development 7, no. 1 (1995): 1-23, tables 1, 3.
  44. Ibid. See also Gilbert Arum and Wahida Patwa Shah, Towards a Comprehensive Population Policy. A Review of Population Policies in Kenya (Nairobi: KENGO Policy Study Series, 1994).
  45. Lockwood, "Development Policy," 15.
  46. Locoh, quoted in Lockwood, "Development Policy," 16.
  47. See, for example, Jonathon Porritt, "Birth of a Brave New World Order," Manchester Guardian, September 11, 1994.
  48. Wim Dierckxsens, "Costa Rica-The Unfinished Demographic Transition," 135-163 Understanding Reproductive Change (Lund, Sweden: Lund University Press, 1994), 137-138.
  49. An example of this kind of thinking can be found in Porritt, "Birth of a Brave New World Order."
  50. D. J. Hernández, Success or Failure? Family Planning Programs in the Third World (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1984), 133. See also Interdisciplinary Communications Program, "The Policy Relevance of Recent Social Research on Fertility," Occasional Monograph Series, no. 2 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1974).
  51. W. Parker Mauldin, Bernard Berelson, and Zenas Sykes, "Conditions of Fertility Decline in Developing Countries, 1965-1975," Studies in Family Planning 9, no. 5 (1978): 121. See also W. Parker Mauldin and Robert J. Lapham, "Contraceptive Prevalence: The Influence of Organized Family Planning Programs," Studies in Family Planning 16, no. 3 (1985).
  52. Pritchett, "Desired Fertility," and Schultz, "Human Capital."
  53. See discussion in Murdoch, Poverty of Nations, 56-57.
  54. World Health Organization, Injectible Hormonal Contraceptives: Technical Aspects and Safety (Geneva: WHO, 1982), 17-23. WHO Collaborative Study of Neoplasia and Steroid Contraceptives, "Invasive Cervical Cancer and Depot-medroxy-progesterone Acetate," Bulletin of the World Health Organization 63, no. 3 (1985): 508; L. C. Powell and R. J. Seymour, "Effects of Depot-Medroxyprogesterone Acetate as a Contraceptive Agent," American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 110 (1971): 36-41. See also Asoka Bandarage, Women, Population and Global Crisis. A Political-Economic Analysis (London: Zen Books, 1997), 83-84; and Betsy Hartmann, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control, revised edition (Boston: South End Press, 1995), 200-207.
  55. Bandarage, Women, Population and Global Crisis, 84.
  56. Ibid., 86.
  57. Ibid., 70-80.
  58. Ibid., 71.
  59. Asoka Bandarage, "A New and Improved Population Control Policy?" Sojourner: The Women's Forum 20, no. 1 (1994): 17-19.
  60. Hartmann, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs, 247-248.
  61. Ibid. See also Vandermeer, Reconstructing Biology, 370.
  62. Vandermeer, Reconstructing Biology, 370.
  63. La Operación, produced by Ana María García, CINGLD, 1982.
  64. Bandarage, Women, Population and Global Crisis; and Hartmann, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs.
  65. Maquiladora factories assemble imported components into goods for re-export and pay very low wages. See Laura Eggertson, "It's Pregnancy Tests-or Else-in Mexico: Women Undergo Forced Exams, and If the Result Is Positive, Goodbye," San Francisco Examiner, November 16, 1997.
  66. Bandarage, Women, Population and Global Crisis, 85-86.
  67. Ibid., 163-167.
  68. Population Council, "Do Family Planning Programs Affect Fertility Preferences?" Population Council News Release (March 24, 1997).
  69. Hartmann, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs, 235-241.
  70. Pritchett, "Desired Fertility," 35-39.
  71. Ibid., 38.
  72. Ibid., 37.
  73. Hartmann, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs, 236.
  74. Ibid., 224.
  75. See Bandarage, Women, Population and Global Crisis, 78-80.
  76. John Ratcliffe, "China's One Child Policy: Solving the Wrong Problem?" (unpublished manuscript, 1985), 38.
  77. From 1960 to 1980 total fertility fell by an average of 0.12 percent per year. Since 1980 it has fallen by an average 0.09 percent per year. Calculated from World Population Prospects, 140-141, annex 2 and 3.
  78. For example, see Mary Tiffen, Michael Mortimore, and Francis Gichuki, More People, Less Erosion: Environmental Recovery in Kenya (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1994).

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