Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Farmers can grow food for all, as long as ecosystems hold

Rudy Ruintenberg and Tom Randall in Bloomberg News: ....The human population is headed to 9.3 billion by 2050, with the middle class expanding from 1.8 billion to 4.9 billion consumers, according to estimates by the UN and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Global farm output must rise 70 percent by 2050 to nourish everyone, as more people seek a higher calorie count every day, according to the FAO.

“We need to improve production," Graziano da Silva said. "The problem is how to do that without destroying the natural reserves, as we are doing now, wasting water, erosion of soils, destroying forests."

...The food-price index tracked by the FAO since 1990 peaked in February 2011 at 237.9 points. It averaged a record 228 points last year, 23 percent more than in 2010 and 14 percent more than in 2008. Some food price relief came by the end of last year, but the cost of food remains historically high. Prices will probably decline this year, Graziano da Silva said last month.

Unrest is likelier today because there’s less slack in the global food system. Inventories of wheat, corn and rice are lower than a decade ago, even as the world added more than 700 million people. Rising prices, declining crop yield growth and increasing fertilizer use have caught the attention of major investors concerned about economic, social and environmental sustainability.

“These trends do not suggest much safety margin,” wrote GMO LLC founder Jeremy Grantham in an April 2011 note titled “Time to Wake up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever.” Grantham is no Malthusian, but his ominous concerns have reverberated among the band of institutional investors who are leading the push for sustainability strategy as a hedge against large-scale risks....

Water tower and grain storage facilities in Park, Kansas, shot by Chris Hartman, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

No comments: