On air: What should be done about the food crisis?

World Bank head Robert Zoellick warned at the weekend that 100 million people in poor countries could be pushed deeper into poverty by spiralling prices.

We’re going to invite on five people with different ideas on what should be done about the food crisis. And we want to hear your suggestions too. Details of our guests will appear here as we fix them.

Our sister BBC show Newsnight asked the same question this week. See what solutions it heard.

97 Responses to “On air: What should be done about the food crisis?”

  1. 1 Brett
    April 15, 2008 at 14:26

    So what should be done?
    Stop eating 200 lbs of meat per person annually.

    Go vegetarian or at very least, reduce your meat consumption.

    If you look at the numbers and statistics about the vast amount of resources that go into meat production and the meat industry, I think this is one of the most solid blueprints to begin the change and steps necessary to feed the booming world population.

    For those who just can’t give up that animal carcass on your plate, how about adopt a strategy of “Meat, but in moderation.”?

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  2. 2 steve
    April 15, 2008 at 14:29

    Make Soylent green out of obese people. People are starving in other countries and you have land whales here. Just being outside for less than a minute in DC I saw 5 obesies today. Why not donate some of that food to an international organization rather than eat it?

  3. 3 VictorK
    April 15, 2008 at 15:19

    Respect property rights, encourage enterprise, cut back on red tape, enforce the rule of law, and move to a market economy. Taken together these measures will lead to greater productivity, including agricultural production, and leave countries that aren’t agriculturally self-sufficient better placed – by being more prosperous – to purchase food imports. There should be no subsidy of agriculture and no government to government aid to those countries that are having difficulty feeding themselves, since both only encourage the anti-market cultures that make for economic and agricultural ineffiency.

    The food crisis is largely a matter of mismanagement. Australia, Canada and the USA are (or are potentially) food self-sufficient. The % of arable land in each of those countries is 6.15%, 4.57% and 18% respectively. They are all, of course, countries in which the rule of law exists alongside firmly entrenched property rights and a system of free market economics.

    Note, as a matter of comparison, the % of arable land in some of the countries where there have been food riots: Haiti (28%), Egypt (2.92%), The Philippines (19%), Ivory Coast (10.5%), Ethiopia (10%), and Indonesia (10%). With the possible exception of Egypt, all of these countries are at least as well placed to be self-sufficient in food production as Australia and Canada, while the Philippines and Haiti are additionally better placed than the USA to be self-sufficient.

    This is another instance of what was discussed yesterday under the misleading title of ‘acting white’: it is culture and conduct that make the difference between being a successful well-fed nation and being one in which food riots occur. And just to drive the point home: Zimbabwe has 8.2% arable land; prior to Robert Mugabe’s land reforms (characterised by lawlessness, violating property rights, and interfering with the workings of a free market) Zimbabwe was a net exporter of food. Today it, too, is haunted by hunger.

  4. 4 Mohammed Ali
    April 15, 2008 at 15:56

    Just forget about biofuel. Simple.

  5. April 15, 2008 at 16:08

    The major reason is the biofuel, all these crops are going for biofuel because it is more profitable. That is nonsense. People should use technology and gene science to increase the crops.

  6. 6 Julie P
    April 15, 2008 at 16:15

    It is my belief that the world food crisis leads to one thing: the price of oil. Over the last couple of years the cost of a barrel of oil keeps breaking records of all time highs. Today the price for a barrel of oil went over $113. Oil is still well ingrained in the supply chain of all products, including food production. I’m sure creating biofuels has a contributing effect, but not as strongly as it is suggested. What we need are real solutions to our energy crisis, not band aids.

  7. 7 steve
    April 15, 2008 at 16:37

    Julie, the price of oil is high because of demand for oil and the weak dollar. Today’s record is because the dollar tanked against the euro again. That won’t stop until europe lowers its interest rates.

  8. 8 Julie P
    April 15, 2008 at 17:07

    Steve, I understand supply and demand. However, it does not change the rules of the supply chain.

  9. April 15, 2008 at 17:34

    Julie P, I cannot help but agree with your position re energy and its role in the world food crisis. Not to unnecessarilly invoke American politics but this seems like another sign that the War in Iraq, as Senator Obama says, has not made the world any safer. Indeed, if nothing else it has precipitated a potential crisis of hungry/ angry people the world over. I am worried! There is need for real solutions which meaningfully addres this problem.

  10. 10 selena
    April 15, 2008 at 18:18

    It is my understanding that there is plenty of food to feed all the world’s population. The abundance of food is not the problem; rising prices are the problem.

    So called normal practices will do nothing to alleviate this problem which is caused by speculators who pop up wherever the grass is greener.

    Unless we are wise enough to see that there needs be change in the way we view the market economy, there will be chaos. People who are starving do not mind being killed by bullets. As one person in Haiti put it, “i am not afraid. I would rather be killed by a bullet than starve to death.”

    If one thinks about it, soldiers are putting themselves in front of bullets every day. So it is not so strange to imagine that people who are desperate will not hesitate to do the same.

    The answer boils down to one thing and it is a simple thing. Start a revolution with the fundamental concept. All people have a right to good food and shelter.

    From there 21st century practical application will emerge.

  11. 11 Will Rhodes
    April 15, 2008 at 18:27

    Mohammed Ali April 15, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Just forget about biofuel. Simple.


    Europe should get rid of the CAP, as well. The price of oil isn’t helping any, but that isn’t the end of it. The Euro and GBP are high in regard to the US dollar, so in reality the price of fuel should be low in the EU, yet it isn’t. This is because the oil companies can charge what they like because of the perceived astronomical price, yet the dollar is so weak.

    Steve – the UK has just dropped its interest rate, that won’t do anything much for the US economy – the only thing that will help that is not paying 5 billion dollars a week to a war that cannot be won.

  12. 12 Virginia Davis
    April 15, 2008 at 18:43

    Friends: I am obese. I am American. I do not like the soylent green solution.

    That said, why don’t we start at the demand side for food. Which is what Indian government is doing. But why not start at the very top, such as World Food Bank and why not start realistically. How many tons of what per country per year in succeeding years is NEEDED. For each citizen of the world to have so many calories of GOOD food: veggies, carbs, protein; per day. And then start DECIDING which countries can produce what for their citizens, for export to support farmers.

    To end politically (my guy needs a boost) that sounds like something Obama could help happen.

    And yes I know how to eat properly; I’ve been working on it since 1986. Just a lot of personal oatmeal to swim through to reach the other side. Virginia in Oregon

  13. 13 Royston Roberts
    April 15, 2008 at 18:57

    hi ros, the growing hype of price in food, will only be curb through the change of our new adoptive perception and mentality, i.e. ( agriculture is for only the poor, un-educated, and those that are in the rural areas.) though ironically the coursers of these global crisisis now are the very rural dwellers who for one reason or the other have left their villages, productive farmlands, un-polluted and green scenery atmosphere, to move to urban areas in various countries all in the name of seeking greener pastures, forgetting that they can be more greener and cleaner if they have and maintain steady heads and ideas in their variuos communities. in the other hand, governments all around the globe should make agriculture a priority delopmental plan to help lift mainly african countries who are the main victims of any unfavourable economic conditions. so my main surgestion is let us all join hands together and do both mechanical and voluntary farming, even if it’s just for ourselves and families, it will go a long way

  14. 14 Syed Hasan Turab
    April 15, 2008 at 19:07

    Subsidise fertilizer cost, raise Govt purchase price in accordance to inflation along with easy access to establish contact between grower’s & Govt. Attraction for growers is essential to feed the world.

  15. 15 Nicholas Fear
    April 15, 2008 at 19:23

    Whatever happened to the EU food mountains that we used to hear about? Have they completely disappeared? Maybe a review of the CAP in the EU and the associated set aside scheme would be useful.

    It seems ironic that the issue of a shortage of food in the world is at a time when we hear regularly about the problem of overweight people particularly in this country and the US. Maybe not wasting food would reduce demand in western society but that would not necessarily solve the problem of say the lack of rice in the Phillipines.

    The issue of using land for biofuels also needs to be examined closely. If there were more hybrid cars available – that also retained their used value – fuel consumption would theoretically reduce. This in turn would surely reduce the need for biofuels and thus enabling increased production of staple foods.

  16. 16 Vijay
    April 15, 2008 at 19:26

    First of all value Agriculture and farmers.
    Farmers need quality seed ,production techniques and technology and stable market prices. Proper grain storage , handling and transportation are required to minimise post production losses .
    Productive agricultural land should be reserved for agriculture ie not shopping malls ,housing and industrial estates.End Agricultural subsidies in North America and Europe because third world farmers are crushed by cheap subsidised food grains.
    A couple of years of poor harvests around the world has caused the crisis.India had such glut of food grains a few years ago there was no where to store the surplus,farmers were encouraged to stop food grain production and diversify into horticulture and animal husbandry and productive farmland was earmarked for special economic zones.
    Now the government of India has banned wheat and non basmati rice export, there are even internal market restrictions private millers and brewers are not allowed to buy wheat in the states of Punjab and Haryana where the government will exclusively buy wheat for $250 per tonne(1000kg),well below the national and international market rate .

  17. 17 Ron
    April 15, 2008 at 19:48

    First of all, Steve (Mr. Soylent Green,) you’ve got some prejudice issues you need to deal with.

    Hey, what if we use a greater deal of that prime agricultural land in the USA to feed people, not only here but also all over the world, directly instead of feeding the produce to so many cows? Greater efficiency, greater health. Americans surely do love their meat!

  18. 18 steve
    April 15, 2008 at 21:35


    So should we starve the cows and instead have lots more grains and vegetables at the old country buffet so people can pig out on those instead of meat? Ron, me being “prejucided” is peanuts compared to people starving and rioting in Haiti when people weigh 500 lbs here and have no self control. Perhaps before inhaling another bag of doritos they should donate the food or the money they would have spent to a food aid organization and help people who don’t have enough to eat instead of gaining that 501st pound?

  19. 19 Emile Barre
    April 15, 2008 at 22:31

    Irrigation+seed+fertilisers+agricultural machinery.

  20. 20 Brett
    April 15, 2008 at 23:06

    … Embrace vegetarianism?

  21. 21 Virginia Davis
    April 16, 2008 at 02:56

    @ Steve: I had hoped I would as an obese and intelligent participant, I’d get some interaction re a “proactive solution.” I am sure there is the science to compute what the world food supply needs to be in 2015. I am sure there are people who are able to design a variety of menus with a variety of foods to satisfy “hunger.” Etc. Etc.

    And for all of you, obesity is a world wide epidemic. As is diabetes. Since 50% or more of the work force of the developing world are diabetic, how can we get work done?

    Which says nothing of those who starve to death daily?

    So, would you please ride your particular horse into today’s sunset, “String Bean.”

    Virginia in Oregon

  22. April 16, 2008 at 04:46

    Reduce birthrates and thus people and thus people’s needs and thus need for food, transport, housing, energy, etc. etc. etc. With fewer people, corruption in high or low places becomes less easily hidden or disguised and thus more exposed. With less corruption, excess and/or corruption-sourced crises, such as the so-called food crisis, the grains-for-fuel scandal, the climate change crisis, the health crisis, the crisis in integrity and ethics, in reliability and honest communication these would not exist or be easier to expose and eradicate.
    It is no use addressing the food crises. It is THE cause that need be addressed. So…, suggestion ONE: close down Monsanto and all its operations worldwide BEFORE they decimate all food crops! Stop all grains-for-fuel farms and factories everywhere. Grains are meant for food, not for fuel and certainly not to be tampered with for profit by the likes of Monsanto. Suggestion TWO: Let’s all of us reduce our wants to our real needs and our needs to essentials until balance is once again attained.
    Reducing human birthrates and stabilizing population will take decades or centuries. Meanwhile, it is imperative that we cut down or out the many excesses we indulge in. Across the board, it is a MUST that we all realize we cannot have all we want, nor build all we know how, nor manufacture all we’re able to. Measure and balance, restraint and thrift must re-enter and re-inform our thinking once again, as they did once upon a time… IF we wish to survive…

  23. 23 Taisa Santana
    April 16, 2008 at 05:57

    The food crisis has nothing to do with the waste of food, much less with ‘being obese and having no self-control’. The crisis can be broken down to a simple problem that has a very complex solution – differencies in wealth distribution, which leads to social inequality and poverty issues. That is how the world works and how it has been for centuries. Hunger is essentially an economics issue like any other after all. How exactly do individuals who waste food alter the prices? If one buys less food, one will spend their money on other goods and the same problem will just ‘ shift sectors’. If it is a matter of ‘donating’, isn’t it too idealistic to think that charity will put an end to food shortage? The problem is not about how people use their money (if it’s buying too much food, books, clothes or whatever you think is ‘waste’), the problem is about having versus not having money.

    I agree with VictorK when he says that food crisis is largely a matter of mismanagement of funds and that poor countries should concentrate on measures to increase overall productivity. But even with improvements in that area, this should not be a short term goal but should be seen as a long-term target. One should remember that people are starving to death right now. That fact cannot be ignored or simply be treated as ‘part of the process’. For that reason, agricultural subsidy and financial aid from the World Bank/developed countries is an absolutely feasible solution to relieve the crisis.

  24. April 16, 2008 at 09:46

    First of all,we will have to decided that what is reason behind this crisis,
    agricultur production,
    failur to make dead land live,
    or rich countries ‘s ecnomic policy toward poor coutries.

    the behave, have adopted by oil producing states can not be disregard in the food crisis.In fact they are indirectly responsible for that.In the recent time,you can check,i hope,will find record increase in oil prices.What the poor states do in such condition.How they would settle their budget deficit.The answer is very simple icreasing texes and prices of other items including essential daily use items and poor people will have face a horrible food crisis.

    Oil producing countries before increasing oil prices should cosider the codition of those passing their life before the poverty line.

    Oil is used every field of life now a days, irrigation ,cultivation,agricultural production is depend on machinery and oil,In case oil has become beyond comprehension what will do poor former.

    Oil’s high prices are effecting agreculture production so the memeber OPEC should cosider it carefully and make a classification before surge.

    Many countries, like;
    and more have vast land but they could not make it irrigate because for this purpose require sources and have not sources .

    I understand as a developed countries it is their moral duty to provide assistanc so that they stand their on foot and compare expected food crisis.

    What is doing Ban KI Moon,as a head of the united nation.According to my knoledge,united nations has fullest record of the world countries so the sould consider this matter carefully and try to save the people from food crisis.

  25. 25 steve
    April 16, 2008 at 16:14

    @ Virginia

    Obesity is the result of bad decisionmaking. There are people going hungry in other nations. Don’t you feel anything when one overeats while people are rioting in other nations becaues they cannot afford to buy food? If people made better decisions, they wouldn’t be obese, and as a result, there would be much reduced diabetes. You could change if you wanted it.

  26. April 16, 2008 at 17:00

    Leaders in Africa should stop investing all of their resources in buying only Prados, SUVs, Pajeros, Mercedes and building mansions. They should start investing in mechanized and intensive agriculture as well as promoting research in these fields so that Africa can become food self sufficient. We need a new breed of leaders who are not greedy and self-centred.

  27. 27 mwesigye cliff
    April 16, 2008 at 20:04

    the issue of povert leaveas alot to be desired especially from our leaders who are outright corrupt. why spend huge amounts on non-issues when the world population is staving?

  28. 28 Jens
    April 16, 2008 at 20:58

    And for all of you, obesity is a world wide epidemic. As is diabetes. Since 50% or more of the work force of the developing world are diabetic, how can we get work done?

    weher do you get this number from? 50% is a vast over-estimation. yes diabetis is increasing, and yes it is directly linked to obesity and high sugar intake. however, it is in everyones own hands to cut this down. i changed my diet away from processed grains and porcessed food in general. as a result i have lost ca 10 kg, without any extra excercise. my wife lost even more weight.

    one can twisted in which ever direction but obesity is directly linked to food intake

  29. 29 steve
    April 16, 2008 at 21:48


    You seem to be in the personal responsibility school of thought. Very dangerous in a world where nobody wants to take responsibility for their actions when they can just blame it on a “disease”

  30. 30 selena
    April 16, 2008 at 22:49

    Steve you have opened up a big kettle of worms now.

    You may have a point in suggested that the “disease” concept is overrated.

    But, as for taking responsibility for one’s actions, it might be better to ask leaders to take responsibility for collateral damage in war before jumping on people who supposedly overeat.

  31. April 17, 2008 at 07:33

    We have to blame outselves for the present crisis. There may be many reasons for the present food crisis like rising oil prices, use of grains for fuel production, climate change, green house effect, poor harvests during the couple of years around the world etc. In order to come out of present crisis world leading nations with sound agricultural technologies should plan in a proper way.
    1. save the food grains that we have now by adopting suitable postharvest technologies available with us.
    2. increase the food production using modern techniques
    3. cut the subsidies in agriculture particularly in North America and Europe
    4. reduce the use of pesticides and fertilisers
    5 encourage the use of landraces which are vanishing
    6 exploit underutilised crops to meet the requirement
    7 View the crisis as the global problem, not on individual country basis

    Many of the countries in the African continent will be hard hit by the present crisis. Every individual has the right for good food and let us fight this unitedly

  32. April 17, 2008 at 08:23

    Food crisis is the very senstive matter of the day.We should give it preference on emergency basis.
    developed countries sanctione loans to small poor states especially for agreculture field.
    technical assistance is also indispensable for them with other related meterial.

    Oil Exporting Countries should have to consider their policies regarding oil prices because increasing prices have badly effected the economy of poor countries of world.

    In view of the food crisis,there is dire need to make balance in the import and export of those items used in daily life.

    The above-mentioned proposals can pave the way of overcome the present food crisis.

  33. 33 John in Salem
    April 17, 2008 at 13:39

    We could make a good start by ending the multibillion dollar subsidies we give to farmers for not growing anything.

  34. April 17, 2008 at 14:50

    its not rocket science
    stop european subsidies to NOT grow food,
    stop govt ethinol subsidies from grain

    if we must try to grow fuel ,grow it from algae ,not corn.

    while we are at it stop all petro subsidies [its just coorperate welfare] ,
    govt subsidy is giving lobbiests for multinationals return for subverting govt money into big buisness proffits ,
    govt is meant to be serving ‘the people ‘ ,not the buisness entities corupting governance.

  35. 35 selena
    April 17, 2008 at 15:00

    It is interesting that everyone has an opinion but no one is proposing solutions.

    At the local level, I have just proposed a plan for a volunteer community food department.

    Briefly, volunteer food departments would enlist the help of children, youth and adults to produce food, which would then be sold to markets at a reduced price.

    The profits would go to community enhancement projects.

    The outcomes would be food self-sufficiency and high self esteem for the participants, which could translate into an increased sense of well being.

    It is time to teach the children that food doesn’t materialize in plastic containers.

  36. 36 Rudolph in Antigua
    April 17, 2008 at 15:02

    well as i see it i would have to agree with a few of the blogers in saying STOP THE BIO FUEL agenda. cause its taking up much needed food that could be used to feed the world. if u look back you will see that the food shortage was not there till the idea was formulated to creatate bio fuel, and the price of oil is not helping either because what food is there to transport around the world is then sold to consumers with the price of the oil add to it. not saying we don’t need to stop depending on oil n clean the air but we need to find some other way to do it besides the use of crops that are used to feed the countries of this world or insted of dieing from the poluted air and sun stroke n skin cancer that will stat affecting us, we will die having a clean planet but from stravation.

  37. April 17, 2008 at 15:05

    Iam agreed with the proposal about good decision making. That, however, cannot be only at the individual level. Big governments and other multi-nationals will also have to get onboard. The fastfood industry advertises, year round, potentially bad eating habits to likely customers. Is there a role for them in this as well? Rising food prices also means less available funds to purchase fast foods, after all. What do the burger ‘n’ fries people have to say in all this? I am curious.

  38. 38 Peter Dewsnap
    April 17, 2008 at 15:10

    Stop people breeding like rabbits. That’s the answer to many of the world’s problems.

  39. April 17, 2008 at 15:10

    John in Salem you are mistaken, the problem we have are not the farmers but agriculturalists who disappear between the universities and farms, where do they go, imagine a field withj many exparts who actually never practice their skills but find money in otherfiwlds!! I am an agriculture student but getting to th ground level is never any agriculturalists aim, they get degrees and run to business because there are no incentives for them to improve food production and processing by governments. imagine Doctors were least paid, wouldnt the population ofthe world be half of what it is? i swear we would have Drs shopkeeping to earn more money instead of treating the sick so give agriculturalists more money and incentives and there will be no food chrisis in just6 months

  40. 40 Ros Atkins
    April 17, 2008 at 15:15

    Hi Ros! Regarding tonight’s show – I fine it quite curious that whilst much of the west is concerned with obesity and the consequences of the over consumption of food, there are countries which are now seeing food riots. How can such a siuation be right? It strikes me as quite absurd.

    Many thanks

    Edward Jacobs in the UK

  41. 41 Ros Atkins
    April 17, 2008 at 15:16

    1st we have to solve the energy crisis and I mean solve it because everything roles along the lines of the market and trade and with the suadi family holding the world hostage we will just keep putting bandaids on the wound which is the world market. I own a small fleet of semi- trailers and when diesel is now $4 gallon I have to pass the charge to the retailer which passes it down to the consumer.
    Denzel in buffalo,NY

  42. 42 Ros Atkins
    April 17, 2008 at 15:18

    is it true that 1 gallon of ethanol is made from enough corn to feed a child for 1 year,

    How can we even consider using ethanol for fuel?


  43. April 17, 2008 at 15:28

    Ros, I think what we need to do is to empower the rural farmers.One thing we must be aware of is that the rural farmers are the ones who feed the urban dwellers yet they arent empowerd economically in terms of food production.In Uganda, less than 2% of the National budget is spent on Agriculture and even so, this money doenst trickle to teh local farmers who do the actual production.

    I believe agricultural subsidies all over the world are essentail and that all the nations of the world should be prepared to grow their own food other than deprivinig of the little available in the producing nations

    Phillip K,

    Makerere University

  44. 44 Ros Atkins
    April 17, 2008 at 15:52

    The food crisis is simple to fix: Food is best produced by those who eat it. So, establish a stable, local political environment, share water resources, and teach folks sustainable agricultural practice. It has all been done before and it isn’t even difficult. It just takes folks thinking about someone else rather than themselves.

  45. 45 Anthony
    April 17, 2008 at 15:58

    Help third world countries build little communities. Each community would be a farm, where everyone lived and worked together. We would need to supply each community with everything needed for farming, defense, birth control, and firearms. Screen the people to make sure they are “good” physically, mentally, and morally. After a year they would be able to be a self-sustaining entity. At least that’s what I think :).

    -Anthony, LA, CA.

  46. 46 John in Salem
    April 17, 2008 at 16:24

    Listen to this report from last week’s Bill Moyers Journal:


    I’m talking about the $15 billion our government gives to people all over America who simply own farmland but have not grown any crops for decades.
    You talk about incentives – what kind of incentive is it to give people money to do nothing?

  47. 47 Virginia Davis
    April 17, 2008 at 16:26

    Yesterday on Charlie Rose a gentleman who is president of the Earth Institute at Columbia University related that Malawi solved its food shortages in three years by putting nitrogen back into the soil. They talked about drought – in Africa, Australia and the US – as well. Water as a world issue.

    Re the diabetes more than 50% that per cent came from a 3 or 4 way discussion, again on Charlie Rose. A NY Times reporter had done an extensive investigation; a doctor from the WHO (World Health Organization) and another medicine person.

    Obesity is a partner in diabetes as the onset of Type II is associated with being “heavy.”

    As someone who has been heavy and crazy most of my adult life, let me tell you Steve, about the drug company which invented a “sane: drug which gave my peers diabetes.

    Food is a decision; all the same as legal and illegal narcotics, nicotine, sex and extreme sports! Get off my case! Oh yes, let’s not forget alcohol.

    Virginia in Oregon

  48. 48 David from Australia
    April 17, 2008 at 16:30

    Agostinho in Jamaica had a point.

    “Julie P, I cannot help but agree with your position re energy and its role in the world food crisis. Not to unnecessarily invoke American politics but this seems like another sign that the War in Iraq, as Senator Obama says, has not made the world any safer. Indeed, if nothing else it has precipitated a potential crisis of hungry/ angry people the world over. I am worried! There is need for real solutions which meaningfully address this problem”

    Who owns the petrol companies?

    “5 billion dollars a week to a war that cannot be won another comment” another comment. Is this the cause of the petrol shortage and the food crisis? The more some bully countries continue to destabilise other countries the more we sink. Quick sand does exist by the way.

    Steve do not insult obese people. May be they have some genetic problems but not food related problems. I remember not that long ago that the Americans were tipping a whole cargo ship full of grain in the sea because they did not want to give it to poor people unless they sell it. Morally what does that mean to you?

    What is reason behind this crisis? Is it oil shortage or greed? Is it poor agriculture production? Is it as some one said failure to make dead land live? Or the oil rich countries’s economic policy toward poor countries? . My suggestion is that the World Bank, International Monitory Fund etc should encourage people with agricultural expertise to work by employing them, but not use the vast amount of money for destruction.

    Israel Ambe Ayongwa – I agree with you

    “Leaders in Africa should stop investing all of their resources in buying only Prados, SUVs, Pajeros, Mercedes and building mansions. They should start investing in mechanized and intensive agriculture as well as promoting research in these fields so that Africa can become food self sufficient. We need a new breed of leaders who are not greedy and self-centred”. Well-said Israel

    The most worrying thing to me is the development of the so called “Suicide seeds” I remember at a international meeting in Bangkok a few year back, an American scientist, proudly, giving a paper which described how they have genetically produced grain that once planted will give 25% more grain but once harvested it will never germinate again. This grain was developed for the so-called “third world” Is this meant to wipe out the poor nations I wonder? Can some body explain? I remember the scientist calling this grain suicide seeds.

  49. April 17, 2008 at 17:01

    Rather than investing in luxury, African governments should invest in agricultural research which can bring in high yielding species and good seedlings. We need to develop some food self sufficiency and sustainability.

  50. 50 Teresa
    April 17, 2008 at 17:14

    At present there is a growing concern about the high food prices and we should wonder why this is happening just now.
    One of the reasons, perhaps the most important one, is business. Is the demand higher or there is less supply of food?
    In my view the second one is more relevant because the land is being used for growing biofuels which are more profitable than just growing for consumption; and what’s worse, there will be more deforestation and more emissions in the near future.
    What can be done? Feeding people properly is more important than getting energy , I hope so, anyway.

  51. 51 Peter Gizzi UK
    April 17, 2008 at 17:20

    I agree with much that has been said. As I hate The EU yes the CAP should go. The EU costs The UK £14.2 billion, we get back just over £4 billion. Much of the rest goes to France.

    I do have meat free days, very important. I am still a bit overweight.

    Contraception in poorer countries often costs more than food. Perhaps we should help there? Religion of course then raises its ugly head.

    In The UK we waste enormous amounts of perfectly good food simply because people are too ignorant to know better. The sell by date is all they know? War time upbringing taught me economy. There was nothing to spare then. Perhaps another war?

  52. 52 CarlosK
    April 17, 2008 at 17:32

    Good day WHYS bloggers and producers

    There are two issues 1. How are we going to solve the food crises 2. What are we going to do about this present crisis.

    On how to solve the problem. We should go back to the good old book and follow the principle of unselfishness by being our brothers keepers to all especially children and the old and the physically challenged. Those of us who have should give some to those who do not have instead of hoarding it for the “rainy day” which may come after our death.

    We should also learn how to grow enough food, if possible, for our own domestic consumption. Where possible we should cultivate vegetable and plant a few fruit trees. Some stables such as rice which most of us cannot produce can be traded for what we can produce in our fron or back yards. Those os us who have good farming land should start putting it to work or give it to the government or hand it over to other who can use it ot grow food instead of allow it to be unproductive or for aesthetic purposes such as a “lovely green lawn”

    To solve the immediate problem requires those of us with food to share with those who are in need. And we who have food should immediately stop wasting it either by eatng too much or cooking too much or wantonly throwing it away. Their should be laws enacted to prosecute people who wantonly throw away good food or destroy good food or damage good agricultural land.

    The UN should also strive to keep prices down because while most of us in the West are not suffering from food shortages (except Haiti), all of us are suffering to some degree from inflating and rising food prices. Raising food prices VictorK is also affecting Americans, Canadians and Britains. This food crises is affecting all racial groups not only colour people.

    This crisis is more than human it has its origin in the spiritual world. Our arch enemy, the Devil, is continuing his effort to destabilize the world.

    Carlos, Kingston-Jamaica.

  53. April 17, 2008 at 17:33


    First, My childhood home is next to a farmer who has about 40 acres left. He owned much more when I was a kid. I know they people who still run the hog and beef farm part up the road. For the past 20 years they have been paid to not grow corn on that field. If they grow something else, well then it is not a “corn field” and they are no longer eligible to get the subsidies for not growing corn in it.

    Food crisis? The diet industry here in the states is a multi-billion dollar industry. If you throw in the exercise part it in nearly a half trillion dollar industry. Maybe they could just send their food they shouldn’t be eating over to the people who need to eat it.

    I kind of like the soylet green idea. Can we also include illegal immigrants, people on welfare, and people of low intelligent level. Wait that last on would include me. scratch the low intellect, but reserve the space for other people society deem undesirable.

    There are only 1500 biofuel stations in the country. I don’t know a single person who runs their vehicle on it. It is not a popular idea yet. When it gets popular, there are many ways to make it that don’t include food sources or farm land. I love the suggestion of growing hemp in the mediums of our highways that I heard not too long ago. Saving the people at the coast of the destruction of the earth seems counter intuitive don’t it?

    If you are starving, plant food in your front yard. Don’t have a front yard? then there are too many of you in one spot move to a less dense area. Can’t grow food because you live in a climate that doesn’t produce crops or livestock? move to a place where you can grow food. problem solved.

    Now let us say that you don’t have food because you can’t afford it. That is an entirely different problem. You need a new government and a new wealth distribution system.

  54. 54 John Augustine
    April 17, 2008 at 17:34

    Perhaps the real solution begins by not seeing this as a crisis, but rather an intensification of a problem which has existed for as long as land and food has been bought and sold. Any time one person dies of hunger related causes, a “world entire” is lost. Why does this need to happen in large numbers before we become concerned? This problem should have been identified the first time food went to waste simply because people could no longer afford to buy it.

    Food needs to be considered a priority. Plain and simple. If food stamps in the US had been seen as a right of every citizen, instead of a policy of charity to the poor, that would have been a good start.

    Land reform is also essential. It should be an international crime to grow export crops on land where food is not freely available to any inhabitants of that land.

    Simple really, but for the greater simplicity of business as usual.

    John D. Augustine
    Milwaukee, WI

    Send in the Vogons. “Don’t bother, they’re here.”

  55. April 17, 2008 at 17:41

    A solution to the food crisis should begin with Monsanto. Farmers must be able to own their own organic seed without having to be forced into buying GMO seed from Monsanto.

  56. April 17, 2008 at 17:52

    The price of oil has now reached $115 a barrel, and it will keep rising. This will end
    long-distance trade. Petroleum-based agriculture will be replaced by local permaculture. More people will work on the land. Will they be prisoners and serfs, or will they be free farmers? It’s up to us. We can continue to let our land and economy degrade, or we can begin to restore them.

  57. 57 steve
    April 17, 2008 at 18:06

    More crops could be grown in the US if champagne socialists didn’t need their McMansions. There used to be so many more farms where I live, now they’re all gone, replaced by McMansions for the transients who move into the DC area. Anyone here from Montgomery County Maryland? Know Shady Grove road?? It used to be a cornfriend. In fact, it didn’t even exist until the 1970s. Briardale rd. is older than Shady Grove. It was all cornfields. 355 was full of Farms, not it’s McMansions and mixed-residential/commercial things like Kingfarm where the farms used to be. And Also, believe it or not, there used to be trees on Shady Grove road, hence the name. But those had to go to, to make more McMansions. The land could have been used to produce wheat or corn, either to feed people here or abroad, or to make biofuels to fill up your massive, unecessary SUV that puts my life at risk.

  58. 58 viola anderson
    April 17, 2008 at 18:10

    The much bally-hooed Green Revolution which alleviated the food crisis for India and other countries was a fertilizer-based solution. Ask where the fertilizer came from. Wasn’t it from petroleum by-products? If that is the case, the world is living on borrowed time, borrowed from the petroleum industry. When the petroleum industry and all it has spawned, such as a huge automobile industry and road construction, winds down which it may be in the process of doing, that source of fertilizers will disappear.

    The appearance of railroad engine size trucks on the highways of the world to replace railroad traffic has affected the greenhouse issue, as has the huge increase in personal automobile ownership. A return to railroads, which are less costly to run per engine utilized would help, as would a return to mass transit systems to move people around. Whoops, I got off the subject.

    Current agriculture systems are heavily dependent on petroleum because of the use of chemical fertilizers from petroleum and because of the heavy machinery used on the farm to replace workers. Unless alternate energy sources are found to run the machinery (and to me it makes no sense to grow crops to make the fuel to feed the tractors), our current agriculture model will have to be replaced. Already, farmers are facing a zero return on their work when the expenses of machinery and fuel are factored in.

    The scientific community must once again search for a solution.

    Fort Nelson, British Columbia, Canada

  59. 59 Sulayman Dauda
    April 17, 2008 at 18:12

    As long as the world continue to expirience bad leadership. so also variant and divergent crisis. Leadership factor is responsibles for the world food crisis. for example the sacking of white famers by Mr. Mugabe is on call for. The Black in Zimbabwe lack the technical know how and why to handle the farming system. and that rendered the structures useless and contibute to global hunger. let the Zimbabweans impel their Leadership to review the land reform otherwise that’s a greviuos mistake.

  60. 60 Eric
    April 17, 2008 at 18:12

    There are many factors coming together here. many people blame biofuels that is a part but only a part. We have transportation costs and fertilizer costs pushing up prices as well as increasing demand with the slow rise in the food intake of the world. (Increasing demand for food from places like China.)

    It is my hope that the world’s political and industrial leaders will see this problem and will shift their efforts to slowing the affects of the crisis.

  61. 61 JBradwell
    April 17, 2008 at 18:14

    People will always buy the “cheapest food”. People on an individual level have to change that – knowing that it needs to be a balance between cost/quality/safety/availability. Some may have to buy higher cost food, lesser quality to support CSA’s to support transport of food to areas where there is none.

  62. April 17, 2008 at 18:14

    I think a big problem with food supply/consumption (and water consumption, for that matter), is the beef industry. If we stopped eating so much beef, we could feed the entire world simply with the soy that is grown to raise beef cattle. Not to mention we could replace much of those crops with corn or wheat or the other foods that have rising global price tags. And we’d gain personal health benefits from a reduction in red meat consumption – that much is proven fact. When did the developed world become so obsessed with beef anyway?

  63. April 17, 2008 at 18:19

    I run my car on biodiesel made from waste restaurant fryer oil. Suddenly I feel like a criminal driving around with a biodiesel sticker even though I am NOT using a food crop for this fuel. Biofuels can be made responsibly and they need a rating system so that consumers know what they are getting.

    That said. biofuels cannot be grown in a quantity that will replace our petroleum consumption – we need to learn to conserve, especially in the US where car companies tell us that 35MPG is a fuel efficient car and public transportation options are poor. The technology exists to produce 100mpg autos.

  64. April 17, 2008 at 18:20

    Faced with the dilemma and you have to make one option. Do you “save the earth”, meaning that you continue to make it habitable for and endless amount of people? Or, do you “save the people.” Meaning that you make sure that people, no matter their situation, have ample food shelter and clothing? What if you could only choose one?

  65. 65 Joel Salomon
    April 17, 2008 at 18:21

    Productivity-per-acre is dependent on having energy to run tractors &c., moderately effective pest control, and not having to worry about thugs (government or otherwise) stealing your crop or “appropriating” your land. The Third World needs power plants, pesticides, and stable governments. Land “reform” is about the worst way of encouraging crop growth—and the best of inducing famine—if recent experiments in Africa are any indication.

    Encouraging First-World countries to burn corn in their cars isn’t helping matters much either. How much energy in fertilizers &c. is required to grow corn to produce the equivalent of a liter of petrol in ethanol? How many people could be fed if that acreage and energy was growing food?

  66. 66 Mark Sandell
    April 17, 2008 at 18:25

    Mwebesa in Uganda, on e-mail :

    “One of the reasons for the decrease of the amount of food in developing countries is the continous use of very poor traditional farming methods coupled with very poor government policies on agriculture. Less money is injected in agricultural sector.”
    Mwebesa Karim in Uganda

  67. 67 Mark Sandell
    April 17, 2008 at 18:26

    Dr Mark La Rue by e-mail :
    “Dear WHYS,

    Whenever food supply or a related subject comes up, the one neglected aspect of the conversation is world population control. There was once an organization called Zero Population Growth. Up until the 1990s or so, the principle was clear and there used to even be spots on television that encouraged responsible people to for example, only replace themselves. Most English speaking peoples took it to heart, while the rest of the world ignored the problem. (Except infamously, the Chinese government). Somehow the discussion of the pressure an exponentially growing world population has on – not only the food supply, but the environment and a host of other problems, such as the increased likelihood of conflicts as peoples and cultures clash over basics like land and water. This seems to have for some time now been shelved out of fear of offending some group of religion. But it is absolute insanity to not be considering ways to educate people about birth control and rewarding them for practicing it. What we need is a humanity of quality in the world, not an increasing swarm of tragic peoples desperate for food, and who, once having got food, set about reproducing. One tenth of the world’s population cannot support the other ninety percent – period!

    Mark LaRue

  68. 68 robert
    April 17, 2008 at 18:28

    there’s no single answer; both supply and demand should be addressed. with over 6.5 billion people all over the world, we might actually be slowly approaching the point where the world population is over-saturated. and, it may be a point that could be pushed back, but only through the means of technology, legislature, and some other solutions…

    one problem is that the US has currently diverted about 20% of it’s food production towards the biofuels. also, artificially limiting the crops that the farmer can produce, though means of price fixing or legislature, is also ridiculous.

    the price of fuel also has a tremendous effect on food prices. the US should start investing billions of dollars into alternative energy sources instead of wasting that money on “war on terror” which is something that is in/directly the effect of foreign US policies.

    poor regions like africa and south-east asia should be tutored on self-sustainability. but that could only be done through means education, both on the government and individual levels.

    the GMOs have not been long around to understand all the benefits and short- or long-term dangers. but, faced with starvation there may not be much of a choice. the wealthy EU can afford to be picky in terms of their food sources. but sudan or cambodia do not have that luxury. rich countries, both US and EU, should be investing in improving the lives of ordinary folks around the world, instead of paying billions of dollars to fight the terrorism. improving the current and future lives of the people would result significant reduction of people who fear that they have nothing to lose and are willing to commit horrific acts of violence.

    there is no single problem in the world that could be treated in isolation. and the current food crisis is no exception.

  69. 69 Mark Sandell
    April 17, 2008 at 18:28

    Kipsang Kerich in Kenya, on e-mail :
    1. Create fair trade for developing countries_balanced trade.
    2) provide support to farmers
    3) provide incentives to youth to stop rural to urban migration which is robbing labour the farming industry(since we are not mechanised
    4) Reduce cost of fertilizers
    which currently stands at 4000 per bag in kenya.
    5) Remove pattening of seeds which impair farmers ability to acess affordable seeds 6)Organisations like IGAD must be supported to provide more trade opportunity for farmers from developing countries Kerich Kipsang theophilus, in Kenya.

  70. 70 Mark Sandell
    April 17, 2008 at 18:30

    Richard in Athens on text :
    “Population (control), population, population! It’s as unfashionable as Malthus. We are way beyond sustainability on our little planet. Without a serious plan to deal with population, untold horrors are in store.

  71. April 17, 2008 at 18:34

    Frankenstein killed his master. If we continue to produce GM food, the problems of today will pale in comparison with the problems we will face in the future. Monsanto needs to go!

  72. 72 Mark Sandell
    April 17, 2008 at 18:36

    Scott in Costa Rica e-mails..

    “Here in the third world where I live, the biggest constraint to increasing food production is not investment in agriculture, it is transportation. What is the point in investing in agriculture to get more crops out of the ground, when you can’t get them to market?

  73. 73 Mark Sandell
    April 17, 2008 at 18:38

    On e-mail :

    Food is available. What is not available is the money to purchase the food. Why don’t the powers responsible for printing money not print more and make it available to us.


  74. 74 Sujo San Francisco
    April 17, 2008 at 18:43

    Linking our food supplies to our fuel production got to be the stupidest idea of the century. A lot of environmentalists and liberals who were ardent supporters of these ill thought out bio-fuels are no where to be heard these days. Bio-fuels are the single reason for the current crisis. The problem however in these circles is more fundamental, as they try to plan everything centrally instead of letting the markets work. If it was left to the markets, bio-fuels would not have had a chance. And we would not be having this discussion. Time and again these central minded individuals and organizations try to beat the market, but only end up creating more problems for all of us.Free markets driven by entrepreneurs is the only way to solve most of the worlds problems. The sooner we get this right, the better of most of us would be.

  75. 75 pradeep
    April 17, 2008 at 18:50

    I am happy for the increase in the food prices and i hope people realize the value of food instead of oil. fundamental law of market say, as the length of the supply chain increase the value added services increase the price. people should realize the value of supporting local food production.
    I only hope that farmers will benefit from this increase. The selling price of grain remained same for long time ( but price of electricity and fertilizers alway increased). what you are seeing is the poverty in the cities not in the villages because they will benefit or remain poor.

  76. 76 Mark Sandell
    April 17, 2008 at 18:56

    Sue on e-mail
    “Our family (several generations of us) own farms in North Eastern Nebraska. We grow corn and soybeans and raise cattle. There are some essential things about food crops and bio-fuel that the average American doesn’t understand. The idea that corn is corn, is corn, is not true. We grow corn for cattle, not people. You wouldn’t want to eat it, it’s not juicy and delicious, it’s dried and stored. We sell what is in excess of what we need to feed our cattle. The amount of energy needed to convert corn to bio-fuel outweighs the energy derived from it. There is some potential for using the corn stalks for energy, but it probably makes for better soil cover. So, for our farm, continuing to rotate crops of corn with other crops makes financial sense for us.

    Soybeans, on the other hand is a different story. Even if we only generate enough bio-fuel to run our own tractors, the cost savings is worth spending on the technology required to do it on our scale. When the price for soybeans as food drops, we can use the excess crop to fuel our farm rigs. When the price goes up, we’ll grow more.

    Farming is the same as every business. You do what makes financial sense or you go out of business.

    Sue Christ

  77. 77 Ros Atkins
    April 17, 2008 at 19:13

    The food crisis will be solved through natural business process of demand and supply; when farmers realise better returns they will produce more. In the poorer countries many people own some land but end up in city slums. This is because they move into cities believing they will be able to make wealth without having to soil their hands. This group should be encouraged by higher prices to venture in farm produce. Otherwise I doubt it that governments will do anything new to address the food crisis apart from seminars, congresses and 'empty policies' and sessional papers! And perhaps battling hungry rioters. Telesphory

  78. 78 Ros Atkins
    April 17, 2008 at 19:16

    Hi Ros,
    Food is in abundance,the problem is moving it from point A to B. Reduce vested interests,mainly political, that make transport very very expensive.
    Togo Kasoro

  79. 79 Scott Millar
    April 17, 2008 at 19:30

    @ STEVE many times.

    STEVE: Isn’t Montgomery County Maryland essentially a big suburb; you also are doing the earth no good by living there. Move to a densely populated city which has the least impact on the planet.

    STEVE: “Obesity is” no more “the result of bad decision making” then your lopsided arguments are the result of a poorly developed brain. I have a healthy BMI, but realize not everyone is obese simply because of bad decisions.

    Some people have physical problems and the cards are stacked against them. Some people have mental problems and the cards are stacked against them. Perhaps some people are just lazy cows. But why Steve? Why? Are you suggesting the obese are innately crappy-slovenly-terrible-losers? Unless you get to the root of why the obese eat so damn much, not just suggest they can control themselves and take personal responsibility, you offer this conversation little.

    Oh! Besides all the above, I forgot to mention that people could be on Atkins and devouring steaks and bacon all day long while staying skinny. Obesity isn’t necessarily commensurate with a big carbon footprint. I’m not so sure eating boxes of chocolates an hour has a bigger footprint then veggies either, are you?

    -Portland, Oregon

  80. April 17, 2008 at 19:30

    If we had a few sensible world leaders that concentrated the efforts on what really mattered around the world, instead of creating wars and chaos, that would be a big help; anyway Mugabe would rather see his people starve because it gives him strength.

    Once upon a time, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia all used to be huge food exporters, but look what happened there; they got rid of the most important people , the farmers…. and now, they look to the west for handouts, as they always do…..

    Bio-fuels…, get rid of them, the cost of producing these is completely uneconomical, didn’t anyone do their homework ?

    Barry in Melbourne

  81. 81 Jens
    April 17, 2008 at 19:36

    @ Steve,

    why is personal responsibility dangerouse. at least i accept my own descisions and do not blame society for all ills.

    one of the problems with developing food crisis is the sad fact that too many poeple live in areas that are not able to sustain their lives.

  82. 82 Ahmad Hammad
    April 17, 2008 at 21:42

    Instead of thinking pessimistically of forgetting using or producing the biofuel, we should adopt an optimistic approach to this crisis, for every crisis is an opportunity in disguise.
    The humans now can find the alternative resources as food. For example, at some places, the bread is being cooked off potatoes. Though, this particualr example isn’t the perfect one, yet we, the humans could take the required clue out of this analogy.
    In addition to the discovery of some alternate resources, we can invent the technology to double or tripple the crops used in the production of bio fuel.
    The rich nations should donate the machinery to cultivate the barren lands, instead of donating the food to the poor, for it will be the best answer to this crisis.

  83. 83 Thomas Murray
    April 17, 2008 at 23:10

    Convince people that the less children they have, the less desperate will be their lives.

    Since the chances of succeeding at that are nil and next to nothing, I see an extraordinarily dire future for the world — one in which a nuclear holocaust is inevitable.

    Which is why I consider conservatives who oppose abortion rights completely cracked. They are only promoting the tools to inflict our own misery.

    How many children do I have? None.

    –Gloomily. Louisville, Kentucky, US.

  84. 84 Mary
    April 18, 2008 at 00:04

    Population control my butt. In most western/industrialized nation we are actually experiencing a crisis where not enough people will replace the current dwindling populations therefore leaving a nation of old folks with no young people to pay into social security. Places like Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Russia, Europe -governments are actually paying people to do the baby dance…Ok lets talk about third world countries…how do we force another country to control its population w/out it turning into China, where the future is a country full of young men. What country do we start with? Who is going to pay for the education and enforcement of birth control? Who pays for forced abortions? In the future the citizens of the western nations will probably be refugees and imigrants from the 3rd world and will one day be taking care of your old A$$!

  85. 85 MarcusAuireliusII
    April 18, 2008 at 03:22

    Family planning, birth control, abortion, limiting the number of children people can have to one. There are too many people in the world. Global warming, food shortages, water shortages, they are all a result of too many people. Environmentalists and other assorted fools will not face the facts. Everyone alive wants all the comforts life has to offer but the planet cannot sustain 6.5 billion people and growing. We need to reduce population by at least 2/3 in the next 50 years or perish as a species. The world ignores Malthus at its own peril.

  86. 86 Bert
    April 18, 2008 at 03:41

    From a small island citizen’s perspective, I think that the W.T.O.needs to revise its thinking and focus more on Fair Trade and Food security and STOP focusing on “Market Shares'” The situation in Haiti can best describe what is happening globally. Haiti used to be self sufficient in rice and other agricutural products. They went to the World Bank for assistance and had to “open their markets.” Cheap, subsidized products started displacing local farmers. Now that oil prices and other commodities are rising, Haiti finds itself ,not being to affford imported food and their local production has been wiped out. So, we must get away from this World Bank, I.M.F., W.T.O. paradigm and restructure Trading Policies. If we had done so before, this swing in the global economy would not be so harsh to poor countries.


  87. April 18, 2008 at 04:23

    For the long haul, IF we are to have one:
    –Reduce birthrates, reduce and stabilize the human population.
    –Eliminate EXCESS in all its forms and at all levels. Do we need 20 brands of pinto beans or 200 makes of cars or 50,000 Wal-Marts filled to capacity with shody merchandise and useless trinkets.
    –The profit motive, capitalism, have created a way of life that is effectively killing us. How long before we face the fact? Our mindset needs overhauling; yesterday’s economic paradigm no longer applies because it no longer works. Either our creativity comes up with what works or ultimate necessity will do it for us. The hard way.

    In the short run:

    What is being called ‘Food Crisis’ is the long overdue and early experience of a reality set into motion decades ago. The food crisis is a symptom of decades-long abuses, excesses, mismanagement of agriculture, of land ownership, of distribution. Taking farms away from small farmers increased crop yields, food production and cost-effectiveness, yes, AND created a monster called Agribusiness: the production of food as corporate business owned and managed by multinationals divorced from land, crops amd labor. The list of evils engendered by this sytem has touched every body and soul upon this planet — and there’s no end in sight!

    Once upon a time, we decried the practice of absentee land ownership and the abuses the system engendered. Agribusiness is the crowning glory of that system. The food crisis is only its first global tangible consequence. Other have been and continue to be effectively hidden from the public eye, the Monsanto scandals among them. An added bonus now is the latest madness of grains-for-fuel!

    What would I do about the “Food Crisis’? Return the land to small farmers who cultivate land they own, who care for herds and animals they own, and who live upon their land. Support and empower them to grow the world’s food as they have done for thousands of years, until the second half of the 20th century, and return the world and food production to sanity and common sense.

  88. April 18, 2008 at 06:21

    Ross, I just sent my reply to the question about the food crisis. Here’s the reply, in part, given by someone with cogent facts on the issue. I quote from his email. I feel this is much too vital, too serious and crucial an issue affecting millions and soon to affect ALL of us. Lester Brown’s knowledge of the global picture sheds valuable light on what we’re up against and is most relevant to the discussion.

    “The chronically tight food supply the world is now facing is driven by the cumulative effect of several well established trends that are affecting both global demand and supply. On the demand side, the trends include the continuing addition of 70 million people per year to the earth’s population, the desire of some 4 billion people to move up the food chain and consume more grain-intensive livestock products, and the recent sharp acceleration in the U.S. use of grain to produce ethanol for cars. … Meanwhile, on the supply side, there is little new land to be brought under the plow unless it comes from clearing tropical rainforests in the Amazon and Congo basins and in Indonesia, or from clearing land in the Brazilian cerrado, a savannah-like region south of the Amazon rainforest. Unfortunately, this has heavy environmental costs: the release of sequestered carbon, the loss of plant and animal species, and increased rainfall runoff and soil erosion. And in scores of countries prime cropland is being lost to both industrial and residential construction and to the paving of land for roads, highways, and parking lots for fast-growing automobile fleets. New sources of irrigation water are even more scarce than new land to plow. … Meanwhile, the backlog of agricultural technology that can be used to raise cropland productivity is dwindling. And the rising price of oil is boosting the costs of both food production and transport while at the same time making it more profitable to convert grain into fuel for cars. Beyond this, climate change presents new risks. Crop-withering heat waves, more-destructive storms, and the melting of the Asian mountain glaciers that sustain the dry-season flow of that region’s major rivers, are combining to make harvest expansion more difficult. In the past the negative effect of unusual weather events was always temporary; within a year or two things would return to normal. But with climate in flux, there is no norm to return to.

    “Business-as-usual is no longer a viable option. Food security will deteriorate further unless leading countries can collectively mobilize to stabilize population, restrict the use of grain to produce automotive fuel, stabilize climate, stabilize water tables and aquifers, protect cropland, and conserve soils. Stabilizing population is not simply a matter of providing reproductive health care and family planning services. It requires a worldwide effort to eradicate poverty.

    “The challenge is not simply to deal with a temporary rise in grain prices, as in the past, but rather to quickly alter those trends whose cumulative effects collectively threaten the food security that is a hallmark of civilization. If food security cannot be restored quickly, social unrest and political instability will spread and the number of failing states will likely increase dramatically, threatening the very stability of civilization itself.”

    Lester Brown. The Earth Policy Institute

  89. 89 Eric
    April 18, 2008 at 10:09

    Stop this corn-based ethanol madness. And stop yelling at “fat Americans”. It is not automatically a fat person’s fault that another person around the world is starving. However, you should indeed feel free to attack the philosophies of “western” economics, the World Bank, the IMF. Sucking the life out of the poor in order to line the pockets of the already wealthy is to me nothing less than a vicious economic war crime and will perhaps some day be recognized (and punished) as such.

  90. 90 Ros Atkins
    April 18, 2008 at 12:21

    Western donors including the World Bank itself must relax their archaic Cold War anti-socialism stand and allow for more funding of agricultural subsdies. Malawi has courageously defied IMF and World Bank, and we serve as an African living testimony that poor countries can attain food self-reliance. This must be followed by boosting animal husbundry and use of manure as a better alternative to fertilisers. Thirdly, America and other rich countries must be more serious than ever with curbing global warming since extreme climatic conditions is also subotaging food production even in the context of good policies. Otherwise, we have no choice but to grow more and more food to make every society that “eats food” grow enough food fof themselves.

    Bright in Malawi

  91. 91 Joel Salomon
    April 18, 2008 at 14:49

    “Throughout history there has been only one means of controlling population growth. It is not war; populations often rise in wartime. Famine and pestilence have of course reduced populations drastically, but the recovery from even these horsemen is often quite rapid, with birth rates sky-rocketing so that within a generation population is higher than it was before the catastrophe. No: the only reliable means of limiting population is wealth.” —Dr. Jerry E. Pournelle, Survival with Style, 1976

  92. 92 Erik
    April 18, 2008 at 14:53

    I loved the show last night, and I love the show in general. Unfortunately, I started listening a bit late. I haven’t been able to read all of the comments, but I really like the comments of VictorK and Selena. As a farmer in Tanzania, I can definitely agree about the importance of enforcing the rule of law and respecting property rights and encouraging local markets.

    Now, how do we do that? I believe that this is a cultural issue and should be the responsibility of the government of the country and the schools. In my experience, the reality on the ground is much different from the law in the books. People still rely heavily on brute strength and political power/ influence to gain access to lands and water. I, for one, would feel more secure investing in horticulture/ agriculture if I knew that the property rights and water rights would be respected. I also need to know that my agricultural investment and operation is something that will be respected and appreciated by my neighbors.

    I know of one large vegetable producer who went bankrupt largely because of a lack of support from the local community. Many of my neighbors have been busy over the past weeks dividing the farm (by force) amongst themselves. This particular producer was exporting 100% of his produce to the U.K. and other European markets. Isn’t it ridiculous that a country like Tanzania is exporting (by plane) fresh beans, baby corn and other veggies to the U.K. and other European markets? Also, be aware that these markets demand beans of a certain length, diameter, and straightness, in addition to no blemishes or insect damage, and they should not have any chemical residue. Shouldn’t people in the U.K. be growing their own vegetables? Shouldn’t people in Tanzania grow their own?

    Also, something to consider…In Tanzania, there seems to be a negative attitude towards large-scale farming operations. So, these large-scale farmers (both local and foreign) don’t always have the support of the local surrounding communities. So, going large-scale and mechanized might not be the most culturally feasible.

    I love the fact that all school children in Tanzania walk to school with a hoe in their hand. If you know how to hoe and have the calloused hands to prove it, you’ve got something to be proud of here. I love this. However, I feel like many small scale farmers need to have better access to information regarding the latest technologies and information regarding farming practices and different crops. So many people just grow corn and beans. I would like to see more emphasis on fruit trees, nut trees, and other crops which can feed a family and also be sold at a local market.

    To me, focusing on local markets is key. Also, focusing on local inputs is key. I currently rely heavily on fertilizers produced in South Africa, China, and some European countries. To me this is frightening. The price of these fertilizers has increased tremendously this past year, which I understand is mainly due to an increase in demand for these fertilizers by grain producers throughout the world. The interest of farmers to grow these grains is related to the rising cost of these grains on the market and the rising cost of these grains seems mainly to be due to the increase in corn production in the West for bio-fuels. Well, that’s what I’ve heard from my fertilizer suppliers. One of my fertilizer suppliers actually told me that I should consider using more composts and manures. Interesting coming from somebody who makes his living by selling these fertilizers.

    In Tanzania, I would like to see more diversified small scale farming with a solid knowledge base and little or no foreign inputs. I would also like to see more Americans and Europeans getting their hands dirty and growing their own food. Does the fast paced Western life-style allow for that? Wendell Berry has written some great stuff on this subject.

    Let’s keep it real and down-to-earth. That’s where the soil is and that’s where our food comes from.

    All the Best,

  93. 93 Scott Millar
    April 18, 2008 at 15:22

    Doesn’t this alleged success of the small farmer solution assume that small farmers are in some way altruistic, good people and expect too much from them? Aren’t many small farmers terrible greedy people, like the big agribusiness? Certainly if many small farmers in the USA are obviously not in Urban areas this would make a majority of them conservative Republicans? Aren’t many of these small farmers the same people that evolved into agribusiness? Or did they sell out? Or did they just get pushed out? Wouldn’t they fight to pillage the forests to grow their farms to make ever more profits? Couldn’t you imagine a big return to small farming and then those very people we enable buying up other small farms, pushing people out and we would end up back here again?

    It’s true I don’t have another solution – maybe this is all we have!

    -Portland, Oregon

  94. 94 janet bratter
    April 18, 2008 at 18:08

    Jonathan Swift made “A Modest Proposal” back in the starving days of the Irish potato famine. It paralleled the soylent green notion. But instead of just scooping fatties offf the streets during food riots he suggested that the ever fertile Catholic Irish should raise their children to be used as food.

    An outrageous and not to be taken seriously idea to be sure, yet families in the current war zones of Iraq and elsewhere are essentially doing the same by forcing daughters and wives into prostitution. The very next story on last nights BBC was all about “the Sport” where men who kick balls around are paid millions.

    The disparity in opportunity between males and females is a direct product of the imbalance between how each gender is valued. So why should you expect there to be balance in the distribution of goods and services (including fuel and food) when you don’t value each other in a fair and balanced way?

    I am a musician, free-lance writer, and inventor. I have to waste time in “day-jobs” that don’t utilize my talents and skills. Meanwhile rap and hip-hop clogs the airwaves and mediocre drivel pours from the MSM. I have an invention that could produce endless free energy. How do I get it into the market place when all that ever seems to emerge are more profit oriented non-solutions like biofuel?

  95. 95 John Smith
    April 18, 2008 at 18:33

    With all this talk about food prices, I realize no one has addressed a certain issue.

    If countries which produce grains continue to restrict it’s farmers from exporting and getting a fair international market price, then food smuggling will become a big issue. An issue even bigger than contraband such as arms and drugs.

    Imagine, customs officers looking for illegal guns and drugs, not realizing that the rice passing through customs is smuggled contraband as well.

  96. 96 Gerard Voon
    April 26, 2008 at 02:23

    There is a rice shortage in the MIddleeast and Asia and South Asia and South East Asia – We in North America buy rice from places like Thailand where rice exports are being curbed. China and India have huge number of mouths to feed, not to mention the snow storm that hit parts of China. Hungry Haitians have forced their President to quit. Even China which traditionally have been heavy handed with dissidents has freed a onganizer of rice protesters. The Phillippino Americans have even taken to sending rice back to their families back in the Phillipines. And don’t forget Africa where genocidal wars are fought because of drought.

    Why it the rice shortage has not hit America I’m not sure, perhaps its because we still have a decent sized inventory of the product. Or maybe in America we supplement rice with other grains such as wheat and America has much land for bread basket.

    Worldwide rising food costs are kind of like worldwide inflation of food prices. All curriencies don’t stretch as far relative to the price of food.

    The first step is for governments to zone land for agriculture. Capacity (nutritional survival) is the key – by filling everybody’s

    It may not get any better for years. I can’t quite see how we the richer nations can afford to support the (hungry fellow human beings – where the food crisis are most impact – people straving).

    We need to:

    1. Plant all the corn/rice/wheat/potatoes as we can.

    (The ladder to sustainability: Water, food, shelter and education/jobs).

    2. Unfortunately we in order to save lives we need to help the hungry eat for a period of time until they are able to work and pay for their food again. The problem is who do you sell or give the food to (criteria – sell to those who can pay the highest price – capitalism versus give food to the most in need).

    3. To produce such huge crops to feed the world Canada (of which our competitors for farming is Australia – had a drought and forest fires) has escaped any really serious calamities. Canada should plough all the land available. For example the pine beetle dead forest, could be ploughed over and corn grown. It would be foolish to count out Australia though as they are perhaps the most industrious people I have ever seen.

    I like corn because you have two of the hottest markets 1. bio fuels – clean and becoming more affordable relative to petroleum; 2. food for the hungry…

    Perhaps there will be a balance eventually between a thrid world’s countries’ prices for crops and the rural people willing to work the farms (who may see their labour costs close the gap with factory workers who work near and outside citiy hubs). Is thia communism or captalism…in defense of capitalism resources are being allocated to farmers now that their products are high in demand and can demand a high price.
    If the price is high enough economic migrants may even leave the factories and go back to working the land.
    This is assuming there is clean air and water and labour without modern machinery is worth it.
    It is an idealistic compromise.
    I have an alternate solution, some of these big developing nations with large lands and cheap labour (perhaps in the future with modern machinery as well)…WHOSE LAND SOIL AND AIR are polluted could grow bio-crops (since a little pollution in fuel may not be as harmful as injestion) eg. into ethanol and then sell; either the dried corn kernels and or ethanol delivered in super tankers to developed countries, and then these developing nations could use the profit they make to buy unpolluted food

  97. 97 Gerard Voon
    April 26, 2008 at 02:25

    On my personal front I am humbly giving up my working income since last week (at least 80% per day) and to the end of this week (inspired by Ghandi) – to donate to our fellow citizens of the World – who aren’t able to meet their basic need for survival.
    Some people may call me hypocrytical, but I’m trying contribute on my part.
    God Bless

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