Worldwide Food Shortages



A good friend posted this to my e-mail list. Below is my reply:

“Food supplies are shrinking alarmingly around the globe, plunging the world into its greatest crisis for more than 30 years. New figures show that this year’s harvest will fail to produce enough to feed everyone on Earth, for the sixth time in the past seven years. Humanity has so far managed by eating its way through stockpiles built up in better times — but these have now fallen below the danger level.”

This paragraph seems to be mixing up two different statistics. Food stocks represent food that is saved for later use. Production is what it means. The distinction is something like this is between federal budget deficits and the national debt.

There is more than enough food to feed everybody. Part of the reason for the push for ethanol is to use up some of the excess corn. As the cited blog mentions, there is no way that ethanol can replace fossil fuel, especially because the ethanol requires considerable fossil fuel in the process of production.

At the same time, considerable agricultural land is being swallowed up by urbanization and roads, other agricultural land is being degraded by misuse. Of course, any discussion of limits to food production must take in account looming water shortages. I already posted Lester Brown’s information about how much the water shortage is ravaging China as water is diverted to urban uses.

Besides, much food is wasted and left unharvested. If the world were really facing food shortages, shifting from animal products would free up a great deal of food, but that is not the problem. There are environmental constraints coupled with an irrational system that does little to channel resources to where they are most needed. So we have the same problem that the United States based during the Depression: starving people and too much food.


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