Suck it up. Here goes more of your already reduced income.
Thank goodness there is no such thing as hunger and starvation in the
u$ of a.
Only "food insufficiency".
We ain't seen nothin' yet, folks.
The End Of Cheap Food
By John James
It looks like the era of cheap food is over. The price of maize has
doubled in a year, and wheat futures are at their highest in a decade.
The food price index in India has risen 11%, and in Mexico in January
there were riots after the price of corn flour went up fourfold. The
floods in England and India have devastated crops. In nearly every
country food prices are going up, and they are probably not going to
come down again.
Before World War II, most families spent a third or more of their
income on food, as the poor majority in developing countries still do.
But after the war a series of radical changes, from mechanisation to
the green revolution, raised agricultural productivity hugely and
caused a long, steep fall in the price of food, to a tenth of many
It will probably return to a quarter of a family's income within a
decade, or higher, from four factors:
1) Demand as global population continues to grow and more people want
to eat more meat. Early this month, in its annual assessment of farming
trends, the UN predicted that in less than 10 years people in the
developing countries will be eating 30% more beef, 50% more pig meat
and 25% more poultry. With lot-feeding huge amounts of grain-growing
land will move from human to animal consumption.
2) Global warming lowers crop yields: see the chart on the right.
Christopher Field and David Lobell in Environmental Research Letters in
March stated that for every 0.5°C temperature rise, crop yields fall
between 3 and 5%. So 2°C hotter means a 12 to 20% fall in global food
production just as the population is about to surge over the 7 billion
3) Rising demand for biofuels replaces food production (see "Looming
disaster", right), causing food price hikes that lead to social unrest,
such as the recent riots in Mexico. This should be taken in context: a
massive report by the major oil companies warns that oil supplies will
peak within 8 years, if not sooner. It estimates that production from
existing reserves would soon start declining by 3% pa even as world
demand for oil is growing by 2% pa. In order to keep the driving public
from facing reality politicians will take the easy road and legislate
to use more land for biofuels.
4) Desertification, especially in the Sahara and Central Asia (see map
below), is undermining food production for one third of humanity. Tree
planting is not the answer as it puts more pressure on already-scarce
water. Their food will have to be provided by just those breadbasket
countries now turning to biofuels. It creates a chain reaction that
must lead to social turmoil, Zafaar Adeel, author of the UN food
looming biofuels disaster
Biofuel production is pushing huge amounts of land out of food
production. One sixth of the grain grown in the US this year will be
"industrial corn" for ethanol. One third of US maize is now used for
biofuel and there was last year a 48% increase in the amount of
farmland devoted to biofuels. During that time hardly any new land was
brought under the plough to replace the lost food production.
There is only a difference in scale in China, Indonesia and Brazil
where primary forests are being cleared to plant energy crops. Yet,
after fossil fuel use, deforestation is the largest single source of
The competition for water is likely to favour the biofuel producers as
their crop, being subsidised, commands higher prices than corn or soya.
Ethanol has roughly 70% the energy content of gasoline while costing
40% more to produce.
In Australia, if all our wheat and sugar output was diverted to ethanol
it would supply less than 30% of our fuel needs. As these crops now
feed 80 million people, what will they eat instead?
It is argued that Australia could increase its biofuel capacity by
using marginal land, but Mick Keogh, executive director of the
Australian Farm Institute, said: "A close examination of global biofuel
experiences shows they are only viable with high levels of government
support, and have at best a limited capacity to meet future energy
The attraction of biofuels for politicians is obvious: they can claim
they are doing something useful to combat global warming without
demanding any sacrifices from business or the voters. For voters the
attraction is that they can continue to drive their cars without a
thought for the consequences. The attraction for business is that they
can make lots of money out of biofuels, and be subsidised to do so.
A straight switch is happening from food to fuel. As oil prices rise -
and Peak Oil guarantees they will - it pulls up the price of biofuels
as well, so it becomes more attractive for farmers to switch from food
Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute says: "The stage is now set
for frontal competition for grain between the 800 million people who
own automobiles, and the world's two billion poorest who will need it
The real answer is to consume less, drive less and to fund high-tech
hybrid and electric cars so we dont panic for ethanol as oil production
declines. Let's not forget that ethanol is NOT a renewable product:
just consider the fuel and water required to produce and distribute it,
and the clearing of the forests to grow it that is now releasing huge
amounts of CO2.