Friday, September 16, 2011

Feeding the World

Caroline Hanshaw, in a recent commentary in The Wall Street Journal, writes that according to the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation, continuing with “business as usual” in world food systems simply isn’t going to cut the mustard.

Excerpts below:

In a new joint report (linked here) with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization being presented at an expert conference in Paris this week, the OECD argues that not only do we need to boost our agricultural output by 70% by 2050, but we have to do this in an environmentally sustainable way.

Yield growth has slowed from an average of 2-3% between 1961-1990 in key crops such as maize, rice and soybeans to 1% or less between 1990-2007.

Climate change has put more pressure on stretched world resources in breadbasket regions in the U.S., India and Africa. And now, with global cereals demand expected to rise by a billion tons over the next four decades, many warn the era of low food prices is over.

According to the OECD, the new approach must be threefold:

  • growth must be sustainable and come at a limited long-term cost to the environment

  • markets must function well enough to provide price signals that reflect the scarcity of raw materials
  •  land rights must be defined to encourage the best use of these resources.
These recommendations may sound logical enough, but with billions of dollars across the world tied up in agricultural and biofuels subsidies and the pressure of millions of hungry mouths weighing on policymakers’ minds, deciding how to proceed will be far from simple.

Read full commentary here.

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