Food bubble how wall street starved millions Thom Hartman video
GOLDMAN SACKS KILLED 250MILLION PEOPLE WORLDWIDE... ."WHEAT"
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Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:22 pm (PDT)
SEE HARPERS MAGAZINE FOR FULL STORY....TALK ABOUT PROFITS OVER PEOPLE...
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"24,000 children die every day, 16-17 children dying every minute, 9 million
children dying every year, A 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring almost every 10 days.
The world is used to not talking about this death rate. I am sure that if the
rate were to increase tenfold in the next year they would put the new rate even
further from their minds."
Through various means applied around the world the evil, in self-defense against
people they have wronged, have arranged that a famine more lethal than the
Black Death will be in every land. The evil, with all of the wealth they have
taken from people, Â have provided themselves with the means of surviving the
famine and retreating from the terror and killing that will ensue as
each takes whatever bread he can from his neighbor to feed his family or
All that we were and might haveÂ been will be unknown to those who will be
here after us.
World hunger is often seen as the result of overpopulation, bad geography or
natural or human-made disasters. But a new book, The Atlas of World Hunger,
reveals that the contours and causes of hunger are more complex and in some
ways more easily addressed than those old assumptions suggest.
Hunger Vulnerability is made up of three components that reflect the public and
private dimensions of hunger: the availability of food at the national level,
measured in calories available per capita per day; household access to that
food, which is tied to household income; and the nutritional status of
individuals as reflected in specific health measures, such as growth failure
in young children.
Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and
Morgan Stanley -- the nation's six biggest bank holding companies by assets --
collectively hold more than $9.4 trillion in assets, according to their most
recent quarterly filings with the Federal Reserve, a figure equivalent to
two-thirds of the nation's total economic output last year, according to
International Monetary Fund figures. It's also greater than the 2009 output of
every other nation in the world.
In 2008, Goldman Sachs and other swaps traders drove the price of wheat to
levels that caused starvation around the globe. Oil prices similarly skyrocketed
as a result of speculation.
At the end of 2006, food prices across the world started to rise, suddenly and
stratospherically. Within a year, the price of wheat had shot up by 80 per cent,
maize by 90 per cent, rice by 320 per cent. In a global jolt of hunger, 200
million people mostly children couldn't afford to get food any more, and
sank into malnutrition or starvation. There were riots in more than 30
countries, and at least one government was violently overthrown. Then, in spring
2008, prices just as mysteriously fell back to their previous level. Jean
Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, calls it "a silent mass
murder", entirely due to "man-made actions."
Earlier this year I was in Ethiopia, one of the worst-hit countries, and people
there remember the food crisis as if they had been struck by a tsunami. "My
children stopped growing," a woman my age called Abiba Getaneh, told me. "I felt
like battery acid had been poured into my stomach as I starved. I took my two
daughters out of school and got into debt. If it had gone on much longer, I
think my baby would have died."
Most of the explanations we were given at the time have turned out to be false.
It didn't happen because supply fell: the International Grain Council says
global production of wheat actually increased during that period, for example.
It isn't because demand grew either: as Professor Jayati Ghosh of the Centre for
Economic Studies in New Delhi has shown, demand actually fell by 3 per cent.
Other factors like the rise of biofuels, and the spike in the oil price made
a contribution, but they aren't enough on their own to explain such a violent
To understand the biggest cause, you have to plough through some concepts that
will make your head ache but not half as much as they made the poor world's
For over a century, farmers in wealthy countries have been able to engage in a
process where they protect themselves against risk. Farmer Giles can agree in
January to sell his crop to a trader in August at a fixed price. If he has a
great summer, he'll lose some cash, but if there's a lousy summer or the global
price collapses, he'll do well from the deal. When this process was tightly
regulated and only companies with a direct interest in the field could get
involved, it worked.
Then, through the 1990s, Goldman Sachs and others lobbied hard and the
regulations were abolished. Suddenly, these contracts were turned into
"derivatives" that could be bought and sold among traders who had nothing to do
with agriculture. A market in "food speculation" was born.
So Farmer Giles still agrees to sell his crop in advance to a trader for
10,000. But now, that contract can be sold on to speculators, who treat the
contract itself as an object of potential wealth. Goldman Sachs can buy it and
sell it on for 20,000 to Deutsche Bank, who sell it on for 30,000 to Merrill
Lynch and on and on until it seems to bear almost no relationship to Farmer
Giles's crop at all.
If this seems mystifying, it is. John Lanchester, in his superb guide to the
world of finance, Whoops! Why Everybody Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay,
explains: "Finance, like other forms of human behaviour, underwent a change in
the 20th century, a shift equivalent to the emergence of modernism in the arts
a break with common sense, a turn towards self-referentiality and abstraction
and notions that couldn't be explained in workaday English." Poetry found its
break with realism when T S Eliot wrote "The Wasteland". Finance found its
Wasteland moment in the 1970s, when it began to be dominated by complex
financial instruments that even the people selling them didn't fully understand.
So what has this got to do with the bread on Abiba's plate? Until deregulation,
the price for food was set by the forces of supply and demand for food itself.
(This was already deeply imperfect: it left a billion people hungry.) But after
deregulation, it was no longer just a market in food. It became, at the same
time, a market in food contracts based on theoretical future crops and the
speculators drove the price through the roof.
Here's how it happened. In 2006, financial speculators like Goldmans pulled out
of the collapsing US real estate market. They reckoned food prices would stay
steady or rise while the rest of the economy tanked, so they switched their
funds there. Suddenly, the world's frightened investors stampeded on to this
So while the supply and demand of food stayed pretty much the same, the supply
and demand for derivatives based on food massively rose which meant the
all-rolled-into- one price shot up, and the starvation began. The bubble only
burst in March 2008 when the situation got so bad in the US that the speculators
had to slash their spending to cover their losses back home.
When I asked Merrill Lynch's spokesman to comment on the charge of causing mass
hunger, he said: "Huh. I didn't know about that." He later emailed to say: "I am
going to decline comment." Deutsche Bank also refused to comment. Goldman Sachs
were more detailed, saying they sold their index in early 2007 and pointing out
that "serious analyses ... have concluded index funds did not cause a bubble in
commodity futures prices", offering as evidence a statement by the OECD.
How do we know this is wrong? As Professor Ghosh points out, some vital crops
are not traded on the futures markets, including millet, cassava, and potatoes.
Their price rose a little during this period but only a fraction as much as
the ones affected by speculation. Her research shows that speculation was "the
main cause" of the rise.
So it has come to this. The world's wealthiest speculators set up a casino where
the chips were the stomachs of hundreds of millions of innocent people. They
gambled on increasing starvation, and won. Their Wasteland moment created a real
wasteland. What does it say about our political and economic system that we can
so casually inflict so much pain?
If we don't re-regulate, it is only a matter of time before this all happens
again. How many people would it kill next time? The moves to restore the
pre-1990s rules on commodities trading have been stunningly sluggish. In the US,
the House has passed some regulation, but there are fears that the Senate
drenched in speculator-donation s may dilute it into meaninglessness. The EU is
lagging far behind even this, while in Britain, where most of this "trade" takes
place, advocacy groups are worried that David Cameron's government will block
reform entirely to please his own friends and donors in the City.
Only one force can stop another speculation- starvation- bubble. The decent people
in developed countries need to shout louder than the lobbyists from Goldman
Sachs. The World Development Movement is launching a week of pressure this
summer as crucial decisions on this are taken: text WDM to 82055 to find out
what you can do.
The last time I spoke to her, Abiba said: "We can't go through that another
time. Please â€" make sure they never, never do that to us again."
http://www.independ ent.co.uk/ opinion/commenta tors/johann- hari/johann- hari-how- goldman-gambled- on-starvation- 2016088.html
Obamas Science Czar Once Called for US to Surrender to Sovereignty to
Planetary Regime to Enforce Population Limits, Control Climate Change Dangers
White House science czar John Holdren has called for the U.S. to surrender
sovereignty to a planetary regime armed with military power to enforce
population limits upon nations and prevent perceived dangers from global
eco-disasters. . .
In their 1970s college textbook, Ecoscience: Population, Resources,
Environment, that Holdren and Malthusian population alarmist Paul R. Ehrlich
and Ehrlichs wife, Anne argued that involuntary birth-control measures,
including forced sterilization, may be necessary and morally acceptable under
extreme conditions, such as widespread famine brought about by climate change.
They recommended the creation of a planetary regime created to act as an
international superagency for population, resources, and environment.
Such a Planetary Regime could control the development, administration,
conservation, and distribution of all natural resources, renewable or
nonrenewable, at least insofar as international implications exist, they
Thus, the Regime could have the power to control pollution not only in the
atmosphere and the oceans, but also in such freshwater bodies as rivers and
lakes that cross international boundaries or that discharge into the oceans.
Arguing in the 1970s textbook for the passage of the United Nations Law of the
Sea Treaty and for a proposed complementary United Nations Law of the Atmosphere
Treaty, Holdren believed the planetary regime could be developed out of the U.N.
administrative apparatus established to administer these treaties as well as the
United Nations Environment Programme and various unspecified U.N. population
Holdren acknowledged the United States would have to surrender sovereignty to
the planetary regime and that the regime would have to have military arms for
the envisioned supergovernment to succeed.
He clearly specified the planetary regime would be charged with global
Holdren wrote: "The Planetary Regime might be given responsibility for
determining the optimum population for the world and for each region and for
arbitrating various countries' shares within their regional limits. Control of
population size might remain the responsibility of each government, but the
Regime should have some power to enforce the agreed limits."
According to statistics from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), 7.1
million Nigeriens face possible starvation between now and November, when the
new harvest season begins. This figure is a hefty seven out of every 10 of the
projected 10 million people that face starvation in West Africa. That figure is
almost half of the population of Niger, where, nevertheless, the ousted
President Tandja lived in willful denial of the problem.
The remaining three million that risk starvation are spread over Chad, Mali,
Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, with Chad, a country that seems
perpetually at war, accounting for some two million.
According to the grim statistics, 400, 000 children risk dying out of hunger and
malnutrition, seven million out of the 10 million face food insecurity, while
the remaining three million are said to be insecure in their food supply. . . .
From Nigeria to The Gambia, with the possible exception of Benin Republic, Ghana
and perhaps Senegal, West Africa has pretty little to show for its human and
natural resources. The famine of 2005 and the one threatening the region this
year may have been caused by freaks of nature, giving way to dwindling rainfall
and generally unstable weather. But there is a perennial but avoidable harsh
weather of bad governance that breeds political crises, economic stagnation and
Wheat prices spiked to a 13-month high on Thursday as Russias worst drought in
more than a century sparked renewed fears over supply.
Seventeen Russian regions from the Urals to Siberia have declared a state of
emergency because of the unusually high temperatures, which have soared to 40
degrees celsius in some areas. Eleven of the drought-affected regions have seen
more than half their sown land destroyed.
Russia, which a decade ago only exported a few hundred tonnes of wheat to the
international market, has rapidly become the worlds third-largest exporter
behind the US and Canada. The government has plans to double grain output over
the next 15 years.
But the worst drought in 130 years has so far destroyed 20 per cent of the land
sown, affecting more than 9m hectares of land.
problems in other wheat-growing areas such as drought in western Europe and
heavy rains in Canada and parts of the Black Sea region that has pushed wheat
prices up more than 30 per cent in just over two weeks.
CBOT September wheat jumped as much as 9 per cent to an intraday peak of $5.985
a bushel before slipping to $5.89, still up 5.4 per cent on the day. Euronext
November wheat in Paris rose 6.5 per cent to â‚¬177.25 a tonne, the highest in 22
Russia has cut its official forecast for grain production this season by 5m
tonnes to 85m tonnes and analysts expect a further cut of about 5m tonnes at
least. Last year the country collected 95m tonnes of grain, 81m tonnes of which
Russia will export less this year than it did a year ago and this potentially
will affect supply-demand factors on the global level, said Mikhail
Krasnoperov, an analyst at Troika Dialog, the Moscow-based investment bank.
RIO GRANDE CITY -- With no end in sight, flood waters continue to cause serious
problems for a three-county area downstream from Falcon Dam on the Rio Grande,
according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
"Farm and ranch losses here in Starr County will easily climb into the
millions," said Omar Montemayor, an AgriLife Extension agent in Rio Grande City.
Starr County is situated just south of Falcon Dam on the Rio Grande. Flood
waters have covered an estimated 15,000 acres of crop and rangeland there,
according to Ronnie Zamora, an AgriLife Extension agent-AgNR Cooperative
"We had several thousand acres of corn, sorghum and cantaloupes that were ready
for harvest before the flood, Zamora said.
Growers of potatoes and tomatoes bewareâ€¦late blight appears to be back in
Wisconsin this year.
The first case this season of the fungus affecting tomato and potato crops was
found this week in Marquette County. Amanda Gevens, a plant pathologist with
UW-Extension, says a commercial potato grower discovered the blight on a small
portion of his crop.
Late blight is a type of water mold that thrives in wet conditions. It produces
lesions on the leaves, which then also appear on the tomatoes and potatoes
themselves. Gevens says the spores usually can move through the air up to 40
miles and can develop in less than a week.
Late blight confirmed in four North Dakota counties
Late blight has now been confirmed in four North Dakota counties, according to
Northern Plains Potato Growers Association.
In its weekly report, the agency says the disease has been found in potato
fields in North Dakota's Walsh and Pembina counties in the extreme northeast
part of the state and Dickey and Sargent, which are both on the South Dakota
border in southeast North Dakota.
Â Late blight is a fast-moving disease that can develop rapidly in cool wet
conditions, especially along shelter belts and any area where morning dew
North Dakotas top animal health official is urging livestock producers in areas
with a history of anthrax to take action to protect their animals from the
A single case of anthrax has just been confirmed in northwestern Dickey County,
where the disease has been reported in the past, said Dr. Susan Keller, state
veterinarian. With weather conditions almost ideal for anthrax, producers need
to make sure their animals are up to date on vaccinations.
Ashok Bajare, a potato cultivator from Ambegaon taluka in Pune district has
reason to worry. He has a Rs eight lakh investment riding on his potato crop at
his 20 acre plot in Bhavadi village. And no way to protect his crop from Late
Blight or karpa â€" the most common and dreaded potato disease that can only be
prevented, not cured. To add to his woes is the fact that none of the insurance
companies, not even the Central governments Agriculture Insurance Company (AIC)
of India provide insurance cover against Late Blight.
Bajare is one of 4000 farmers from Satgaon Pathar area where the total
investment in the potato crop this year is Rs 70 crore. They are contract
farmers who have annual contracts with Multinationals like PepsiCo and ITC
Limited who directly purchase their produce of Atlantic and FL 1533 potato
varieties - exclusively used for potato chips manufactured by them.
Wheat jumped to the highest price since November on speculation that a prolonged
dry spell will widen damage to crops in Russia, the worlds fourth-largest
exporter. Russias grain harvest will drop by at least one-fifth from last year,
to 77 million metric tons, the countrys Grain Producers Union said today.
Fourteen Russian regions, covering some 15 per cent of the country, have
declared a state of emergency because of the unusually high temperatures, which
have soared to 40 degrees celcius in some areas. Eleven of the drought-affected
regions have seen more than half their sown land destroyed
The Ministry of Agriculture says the continuing drought will lead to a reduced
grain yield from 9.5 million hectares in 17 regions, bringing the national grain
production down to 75 million ton
Russians sweltered Friday in the hottest weather since the Stalin era as
droughts caused crop devastation across the country and hundreds drowned in
bathing accidents often influenced by alcohol.
Friday was expected to break a record in Moscow, topping 33 degrees Celsius, the
highest temperature that day since 1938, according to the state weather centre.
At the weekend, the temperature was forecast by the state weather centre to hit
37 degrees in central Russia.
An emergency drought situation has been declared in 19 of Russia's 83 regions
with crops dying on an estimated 9.6 million hectares of fields.
The drought-struck areas were suffering "colossal destruction, " Agriculture
Minister Yelena Skrynnik said Tuesday at a meeting with President Dmitry
The coldest place on earth in winter, Oimyakon in the Sakha region, was forecast
to swelter at 32 degrees centigrade on Friday, the ITAR-TASS news agency
In Moscow, people paddled in fountains to escape the heat and bought record
amounts of ice cream.
"Sales of fruit lollies have gone up 10 times," the general director of the
Union of Ice Cream Makers, Valery Elkhov, told the RIA Novosti news agency, with
Muscovites gobbling 250 tons of ice cream per day.
Commuters in Moscow metro sizzled with temperatures inside some stations topping
The Kremlin cancelled a weekly ceremonial performance by mounted troops from the
presidential regiment, due to fears that the troops and horses would suffer in
Customers have flocked to buy air conditioners and fans to beat the heat in
airless concrete office blocks and apartment buildings.
"The yearly stock of air conditioning systems and fans has already sold out, and
we had to order extra," said Nadezhda Kiselyova, a spokeswoman for electronics
"Over the past four weeks of unusual heat, the sales have been 10 times higher
than last year's figures."
Gennady Onishchenko, the head of the state health and safety watchdog, called
for Russians to take longer lunchbreaks to evade the midday sun.
"Given the heat, work could be carried out earlier or later while during the
hottest hours of the day we can institute a prolonged pause," Onishchenko was
quoted by state mouthpiece Rosskiskaya Gazeta as saying on Tuesday.
July could be a record-breaking month for Moscow, with the average temperature
more than six degrees Celsius above the norm so far, according to the state
By Maria Kolesnikova
July 12 (Bloomberg) -- Russias worst drought in a decade has damaged more than
half of grain planted in 11 regions and hot, dry weather may continue for the
rest of this month, a meteorologist said.
We dont see much room for improvement in July, said Anna Strashnaya, head of
agro-meteorological forecasts at the Federal Hydrometeorological Service. Rains
came too late in some areas, while conditions remained unfavorable in the
worst-hit regions along the Volga River and in the Ural Mountains, she said in a
telephone interview July 9.
Soil drought has affected more than half of grain plantings in 11 regions along
the Volga, in the Urals and central Russia, and yields in these areas will be at
least 30 percent less than last year, the service said on its website late July
Heat will persist in most parts of central Russia through July 17, with
temperatures reaching as high as 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit), the
hydrometeorological service said on its website today. The agency forecast
temperatures as high as 39 degrees Celsius in the Volga region and thunderstorms
and rains in southern areas through July 14.
The Agriculture Ministry reduced its forecast for the total grain crop by 5.6
percent to 85 million metric tons on July 5. Last yearâ€™s harvest came to 97
million tons. Fourteen regions along the Volga, in the Urals and central Russia
have declared emergencies because of heat and drought. Emergencies may be
extended to four more regions soon, the ministry said last week. Drought damaged
9.3 million hectares (22.9 million acres) of crops across the country, it said.
Drought affected most of the areas in the Volga region, where 50 percent to 70
percent of grain plantings, and sometimes more, were damaged, Strashnaya said.
Productivity will be low, and yields wont be much higher than in Saratov.
The Saratov region, which accounted for 3.2 percent of Russias wheat crop last
year, last week reported grain yields at 750 kilograms (1,653 pounds) a hectare,
compared with last years yields at 1.4 tons a hectare. The grain crop in
Tatarstan will come to about 1 million tons this year, down from an average 4.5
million to 5 million tons, the regional Ministry of Agriculture and Food said
Hot and dry weather worsened the crop outlook in parts of central Russia, with
half of grain plantings damaged in the Voronezh region, which accounts for 3.2
percent of Russian wheat, and some damage in the Tambov region, Strashnaya said.
Yields may be only marginally better in Voronezh and parts of Tambov than in
Saratov, Strashnaya said. Yields in Voronezh averaged 2.65 tons a hectare last
The Volgograd region in the south, which accounts for 4.6 percent of the wheat
harvest, continues to suffer from dry and hot weather, with temperatures as high
as 35 degrees Celsius, Strashnaya said. Yields there will be every bad, and only
marginally better than in Saratov, she said.
Unfavorable conditions persist across the Urals despite some decline in
temperatures, she said. More than half of the grain crop is damaged in the
Chelyabinsk region and as much as 30 percent in the Kurgan region.
Rains have delayed harvesting in southern regions including Krasnodar and
Stavropol, and may cause some crop losses, Strashnaya said.
With the price of food rising due to inflation and drought hindering already
negligible crops, Madhu Acharya, Nepals UN ambassador stresses the need for
The western areas of Nepal have been hit the hardest. Ravaged by drought through
most of last year, the regions crops have unsuccessfully mitigated an already
brutal food shortage.
In a country were only 20 percent of the land is irrigated, agricultural success
depends on predictable monsoon rains to decide when to sow and harvest crops.
But in recent years, rain patterns have become unpredictable occurrences. This
erratic rain has baffled farmers, they dont know when to sow the seeds. And
when the rain does come, it comes in flash floods, said Acharya.
Y la luz en las tinieblas resplandece; mas las tinieblas no la comprendieron.
RIGHT TO LIFE
MALTHUSIANS Â WRONG ABOUT FOOD SUPPLY AND POPULATION
Population grows exponentially. That is, each generation is a little bigger than
the generation before, and so more people have more children, and the next
generation is bigger yet. Population grows faster and faster.
On the other hand, food production is limited by available farmland, water for
irrigation, and so on, and so cannot grow without limit. Food production grows
more and more slowly.
Therefore, it inevitably follows that as population continues to grow faster
while food production grows more slowly, sooner or later population will
outstrip food supply, and it just will not be possible to feed all the people.
The logic is simple and irrefutable. Right?
Let's look at the facts.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization keeps statistics on world
population and food production. Their broadest measure is an aggregate total of
all food produced in the world. As this combines many different kinds of food,
they express this total simply as a percentage of an arbitrarily- chosen
Here are the FAO's figures2,3 for world population and food production. They
have statistics available starting from 1961.
Year Population (Millions) Food Production (Index)
1961 3,086 49.5
1962 3,147 50.8
1963 3,210 52.1
1964 3,276Â 53.8
1965 3,343 54.5
1966 3,412 56.8
1967 3,482 59.0
1968 3,554Â 60.7
1969 3,628 60.8
1970 3,702 62.7
1971 3,777 64.6
1972 3,854 64.0
1973 3,930 67.7
1974 4,006 68.7
1975 4,081 70.5
1976 4,155 72.6
1977 4,227 73.8
1978 4,299 77.4
1979 4,373 78.3
1980 4,447 78.8
1981 4,524 81.4
1982 4,602 84.2
1983 4,682 84.4
1984 4,764 88.8
1985 4,847 90.7
1986 4,933 92.9
1987 5,021 93.3
1988 5,109 94.8
1989 5,197 98.4
1990 5,282 100.8
1991 5,366 100.8
1992 5,447 103.6
1993 5,527 104.5
1995 5,687 110.6
1996 5,768 115.1
1997 n/aÂ 116.2
It can be hard to see the trend in a maze of numbers like this, so let's try
representing it as a graph.4
Population and Food Production
This graph shows that the first part of the argument is essentially correct:
Population does grow exponentially.
But it is absolutely dead wrong about food production. Consistently for the past
35 years, world food production has grown, not more and more slowly, but faster
and faster. Indeed, food production is increasing faster than population.
Let's look at the data another way. The FAO also publishes their calculation of
world food production per person.1 Here's their data:
Year Food per PersonÂ (index)
While these numbers have their ups and downs, the general trend is clearly
Note that in 1996 world food production per person was 24% more than it was in
1961 (105.4 divided by 84.7.) Understand, these figures do not say that the
world produced 24% more food, but that the world produced 24% more food per
How is this possible?
Simple. Technology. Especially since World War II, agricultural technology has
been racing ahead. When we think of technology we usually think of machines, and
in Western countries this has certainly been a part of it: the tractor, the
combine, and so forth have greatly contributed to increasing food production. In
the developing countries mechanization is still far behind the West, but other
types of technology have proven even more important: fertilizers, irrigation,
better weather prediction, and perhaps most important, new strains of crops that
grow faster, can thrive in difficult conditions, and are more resistant to
disease. Agronomists refer to the introduction of these new crops to the Third
World as the "Green Revolution", and it dramatically improved the state of the
world's food supply.
Whenever I point out these facts in writing or lectures, somebody invariably
objects that these technologies have now "peaked", that all they accomplished
was to hold off the inevitable.
This is incredibly pessimistic. Technology has been steadily advancing for
thousands of years. In the last two hundred years it has been increasing at a
faster and faster pace. But now, they say, it's about to stop. After thousands
of years of progress, and despite the fact that the last few years have seen
greater progress than at any time before in history, they are absolutely
convinced that tomorrow will be the last day and there will never be another new
invention, there will never be another scientific discovery, ever again. I find
this very hard to believe. There is every reason to presume that technology will
continue to advance in the future as it has in the past. I make no claim to know
what agricultural technology will look like a hundred years from now, except to
say that it will almost certainly be more advanced than it is today.
But let's suppose this pessimistic belief is true. Technology is about to stop
dead. If technology will no longer allow us to increase the yield of each crop,
is there any other way to increase food production?
Sure. Plant more crops.
According to the FAO5, the world has a total of 13.048 billion hectares of land.
(A hectare is about two and a half acres.) Of this, 1.467 billion hectares are
being used to grow crops, or 11%. Okay, let's concede that some of this land is
unsuitable for farming. The FAO says that 4.003 billion hectares contain
buildings or roads, are too barren to be used as farmland, or are of unknown
usefullness (due to limitations in trying to collect data from all over the
world). This leaves 9.045 billion hectares of reasonably fertile, undeveloped
land. Even at that we are only using 16% of the available land.
Granted, there would be adverse consequences to using 100% of this land to grow
crops. Land is needed for animals to graze, to provide habitats for wild
animals, etc. But if we are presently using only 16% of the world's potential
farmland, we surely have a lot of room to maneuver.
Starvation is not imminent. The average citizen of the world today is better fed
that at any time in recorded history. And the situation is getting better and
better every year. Chicken Little and Al Gore are wrong.
1. Trying to combine numbers for different types of food presents a problem:
What unit of measure do you use? The FAO decided on using the monetary value of
the food produced, choosing the average price for each commodity for a baseline
period (1989-1991), and then calculating production from all over the world
based on a single price. This eliminates errors from regional price variations,
and price changes over time, including inflation. It does mean that different
types of food are evaluated based on their price rather than, say, their
nutritional value. But if one counted by calories, you could reply that this
ignored vitamins; if one counted vitamins, you could reply that this ignored
carbohydrates; etc. For more information, see the FAO's explanation of their
index, at "http://www.fao. org/waicent/ faostat/agricult /indices- e.htm".
2. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. "Agricultural Production
Indices." Statistical Database. Rev 1997.
http://apps. fao.org/lim500/ nph-wrap. pl?CropsPrimary& Domain=PIN (8 Nov 1997)
3. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. "Population. " Statistical
Database Rev 1997. http://apps. fao.org/lim500/ nph-wrap. pl?Population (8 Nov
4. To put food production and population on the same graph, I have expressed
population as an index also, with 1961=50 so it starts at about the same place
as food production.
5. United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. "Land Use." Statistical
Database. Rev 1997. http://apps. fao.org/lim500/ nph-wrap. pl?LandUse (8 Nov 1997)
Used 1994 data, the most recent year for which they provided complete
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