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Monday, April 14, 2008

Rising Food Prices

Here is the Economics Times' story on rising food prices, and how they my push 100 million people in deep poverty. Here is a CNN story about rising food prices hitting consumers. Here is an ABC News story blaming the rising costs on global warming. Finally, a FoxNews story provides the following list of potential causes:
Freak weather is a factor. But so are dramatic changes in the global economy, including higher oil prices, lower food reserves and growing consumer demand in China and India.

Among the driving forces are petroleum prices, which increase the cost of everything from fertilizers to transport to food processing. Rising demand for meat and dairy in rapidly developing countries such as China and India is sending up the cost of grain, used for cattle feed, as is the demand for raw materials to make biofuels.
How high a priority should it be for those who are comfortable to ensure that those who are not have food?

Hint: I don't think the answer is some sort of "at all costs" or "anything" response. That is certainly not my first instinct. But, should we stop eating meat because doing so would dramatically increase the world's food supply? Should we pour research dollars into improving the food supply in excess of what our market driven research currently demands? Should we pay 1% of our income to a fund that reduces the cost of food? What about 10%?

Will our meddling make things worse?

1 comment:

Matt Dick said...

A top down approach will almost certainly make things worse. Maybe not in the short term, but ultimately an attempt to design the world food distribution will kill an enormous number of people. The world's communist states should make that clear.

I think the answer to the food shortage has to be related to the answer to the question of "Why is this a crisis now, but wasn't even a hint of an issue last year?".

Food shortages on the scale we're seeing is not a surprise incident. Especially in the absence of a global climatic event, which didn't happen last year.

So what gives? Are we just hearing about this now? That seems entirely possible. Is it that food supplies really are not dwindling but that the distribution has gotten out of whack or unfair?

I never see an article that tells me *why* we are low on food. I don't believe we're finally running out of arable acreage. I've seen credible reports that Iowa could, if necessary, still feed half the globe by itself if we needed it to. If that's the case, we need to find the source of the current problem and not over-react to a momentary problem. Over-reacting on a global scale is almost always government intervention.