High Grain Prices will hit World’s poor

August 31, 2007 · Filed Under news · Comment 

Wheat and other grain prices keep rising and are now well over double the price of a year ago, reflecting the very tight supply situation. We at Peak Food have been saying for some time that we are facing a food crisis, but still hope that this is just a blip and not the start of the real thing.

Of course, farmers needed a rise on the £60-£70 per tonne they have been getting for the last few years but the recent jump will mean real hardship for some. In the West with our processed, packaged food, the grain element is usually a small proportion of the retail price and the price increases should cause no real problems, but spare a thought for the hundreds of millions of people in the world who live on a few dollars per day and buy basic food. They will find that the cost has nearly doubled and that may mean the difference between struggling by or not. If the world is short of grain, demand will have to fall to the level of supply and this will happen by the poorest eating less.

On our site, we have listed the many threats to food supplies. Of those, the ones causing the present problems are:

Climate change
competition from biofuel production, and
millions of people in Asia moving up the food chain.

Farming in the Greenhouse

August 27, 2007 · Filed Under Threats to Food Supply · Comment 

Below is an excerpt from the first draft of our book,”Famine in the West”. Though it was only written a few months ago, events have already slightly overtaken it.

“In January 2007 the IPCC issued a report which was the culmination of six years of research by 2500 scientists from more than 130 countries. This highly regarded study predicts catastrophic rises in sea levels, frequent droughts, tropical storms, flooding, heatwaves and the disappearance of Arctic ice in the sea in the second half of this century.

“It forecasts a 3ºc rise in average temperature by the end of the century but a 6.4ºc rise is possible. So, without very quick action, runaway change looks certain.

“Some commentators have said that climate change will merely mean a geographic relocation of the areas suitable for agriculture, that as large areas like Africa, Southern Europe and the U.S. corn belt become too dry, other parts of the world such as Upper Canada and Northern Russia would become more viable for farming. This argument might make sense if the change were taking place over many hundreds of years but as we lose production from the South we cannot easily move farming to the more northern areas. It would take years to clear the land and build an infrastructure and even then would only be marginally suitable. Certainly there would be no chance of replacing production lost elsewhere. The best we could hope for would be a slow movement northwards of the boundaries of productive land.

“As far as other productive farming areas are concerned, scientists predict major losses in agricultural productivity if global surface temperatures rise by more than 2ºC. However, non-farmers do not always realise how dependent farmers are on a regular weather pattern for the type of farming they do and how relatively small changes can cause big losses. In fact, in the last few years I am sure that every farmer has seen extremes of weather, way outside of the normal fluctuations, that have at times lowered crop yield. So far though, consumers have been lucky in that poor yields in one area have been balanced by good yields in others and there have been carry-over stocks available from previous harvests…”

Since that was written, the 2007 harvest has been poor in several parts of the world causing grain prices to shoot up to record levels. By next harvest, stocks will be at dangerous levels and we are now extremely vulnerable should that harvest also be poor.

Peak Phosphate

August 19, 2007 · Filed Under Threats to Food Supply · Comment 

August 19th, 2007 by John

The following is part of an article by Patrick Dery and Bart Anderson on Energybulletin.net

“Peak oil has made us aware that many of the resources on which civilization depends are limited.

“M. King Hubbert, a geophysicist for Shell Oil, found that oil production over time followed a curve that was roughly bell-shaped. He correctly predicted that oil production in the lower 48 states would peak in 1970. Other analysts following Hubbert’s methods are predicting a peak in oil production early this century.

“The depletion analysis pioneered by Hubbert can be applied to other non-renewable resources. Analysts have looked at peak production for resouces such as natural gas, coal and uranium.

“In this paper, Patrick Déry applies Hubbert’s methods to a very special non-renewable resource – phosphorus – a nutrient essential for agriculture.

“In the literature, estimates before we “run out” of phosphorus range from 50 to 130 years. This date is conveniently far enough in the future so that immediate action does not seem necessary. However, as we know from peak oil analysis, trouble begins not when we “run out” of a resource, but when production peaks. From that point onward, the resource becomes more difficult to extract and more expensive…”

This is just another example of the way that we have raised the carrying capacity of the Earth to a level that is not sustainable. We must look at ways to recycle phosphates and other nutrients instead of flushing them down the sewers of the big cities.

Biofuels can be bad for the Environment

August 18, 2007 · Filed Under solutions · Comment 

Biofuels have a very important part to play in the future, as we start to derive our energy needs from present day sunshine instead of using the energy that the sun radiated millions of years ago.

However, setting targets for biofuel use with no regard for the way they are produced can be counter productive. The demand for biofuels in Europe is causing the burning and reclaiming of millions of acres of tropical forests. This releases more carbon than will be saved by growing the fuel crop and shows how badly thought out the European targets are.

In the first place, we need to obtain our biofuels from the straw of normal food crops by efficiently harvesting the whole crop intact and then separate the components to use for both food and energy. At this point the straw is a free asset because no extra energy inputs have been used. As methods for producing ethenol from cellulose become well established we will then be able to obtain more and more energy from waste as well as from biomass produces on poor land or from woodland in a sustainable way.

A Radical Pakistan would threaten Food Supplies

August 15, 2007 · Filed Under news · Comment 

As Pakistan celebrates its independence anniversary, we need to consider how its future could have a big effect on the West’s future oil supplies and therefore our ability to produce food.

President Musharraf has been in the difficult position of having to take action against Islamic militants without losing popular support. The storming of the Red Mosque has lost him many supporters.

Radical Islamists are working for an Islamic state covering the Middle East and beyond that would confront and try to destroy the Infidels. If they can get control of Pakistan with its atomic weapons, they could cause chaos in the Middle East and disrupt oil supplies to the Infidels, causing collapse of food production.

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