It’s an inconvenient truth that across the world valuable cropland is being converted from growing food to growing biofuel. The croplands are being converted with government subsidies, and we are about to learn a very harsh lesson.
Lester Brown, director of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, said yesterday that land turned to biofuels in the US alone in the last two years would have fed nearly 250 million people with average grain needs. “This year 18% of all US grain production will go to biofuels. In the last two years the US has diverted 60m tonnes of food to fuel. On the heels of seven years of consumption of world grains exceeding supply, this has put a great strain on the world’s grain supplies,” he said.
The rising price of energy has decreased supplies of food in two ways: it’s made fuel crops more attractive and it’s made export and transport of food staples such as wheat, corn, and rice both more expensive and less appealing.
The outcome? We have breadlines in Egypt, we have spiraling food staples cost, and not enough food, which means people will be starving to death later this year. Yes, we passed a tipping point Al, and it was much closer and more easily seen than the one you spoke of in your movie.
Food production and commodities combined with free markets have kept famine at bay across most of the world since the early 80’s. The fact is that modern famines are created by government policies, or strife which interdicts transport. The Somalian famine was due to civil war against Islamists, and the Bangladesh famine was due to failed governance.
Any country can feed its people no matter how dense the population if they can farm at the level that 16th century Japanese peasants were capable of, this demonstrated in “A Step Further Out” by Jerry Pournelle. In the modern world with cheap transport and modern agriculture there’s simply no excuse for Famine, but I fear we’ve passed that point and that we will see some people starving to death this year.
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