The global food crisis – the EU must reconsider its position on biofuels and genetically modified food (GMO)

It is sad and unnecessary that the world now is experiencing a food-crisis, leaving millions starving and in extreme poverty. The Independent dedicated its Saturday front page the ‘other global crisis’, the huge increase in food prices during the past years. The Economist also devoted its front-page to the crisis today. There are reported food crisis’ in 37 countries, according to the UN, and more is to come if something isn’t done, now.

The Economist - Food Crisis 

The increase of price during the last year, on some selected basic products, is:

–       Corn 31%, Rice 74%, Soya 87%, Wheat 130%.

Even though the price-increase boosts’ the income of sometimes very poor farmers, it also makes it harder for other poor people, especially in the developing world, who already are having a hard time making the ends meet.

 

Climate Change, Biofuels, Diets and increasing oil prices

There is of course not one single reason why there is a global food crisis now, but let me draw you attention to some of the most discussed:

  • Climate Change  – the increasingly extreme weather is causing droughts and floods, thus destroying crops and fertile soil around the globe. The Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change estimates global warming is reducing the area suitable for agriculture; reducing the length of growing season; and reducing yield in semi-arid and arid areas. Available freshwater will in certain areas be reduced by up to 20-30 percent.
  • Biofuels – the increased need for biofuels, which is produced by corn and other important food products, leads to less food reaching the world market and increasing the food prices. The production has in addition to this sped up the process of deforestation around the globe, as a consequence leading to increased global warming as less trees clean up the CO2 that nature and people emit.  
  • Changing diets – the increased wealth in countries such as China, Brazil, India and Russia have changed their populations’ diets. E.g.: The meat consumption in China has gone up by 150 % since 1980, according to the Independent. This has lead to increased production of meat and the problem is that you need 8 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of beef. This has also escalated deforestation, as more land is needed for the animals to eat and produce great steak for us. 
  • Oil prices – the all time high oil and energy prices are making production of many agricultural goods more expensive.

The effect is strongest on the poorest people of the world. There have already been riots in many countries due to high food prices. If this development continues consequences will be increased poverty, mass migration and fuel conflicts across the board.

Relax biofuel goals, consider genetically modified food and become a vegetarian

It might be naïve, but firstly I hope that the EU (and other highly energy consuming countries) will reconsider their biofuel goals in the short-term, until there is a solution where the production of bio-fuels doesn’t conflict with a sustainable food production and preservation of important forest. Someone has also argued that the EU should reconsider its position on genetically modified food, if the crisis maintain. I think it is seriously time to at least discuss this option, if it means that future food crisis’ can be avoided. Check out these sites for more information, pro et contra

In the medium and long term I hope this crisis will remind decision-makers how important the fight against global warming is, as such food crisis’ only will escalate if global warming is not fought. The Climate Conference in Copenhagen next year will be decisive for the future of a post-Kyoto deal. And maybe we all should eat less meat and consider becoming vegetarians? 


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