FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The End of "Cheap Food"?

From the end of World War II until now, most nations have enjoyed plentiful and relatively inexpensive food supplies. But now, according to the well-known futurist think tank Global Business Network, that era may be ending.

GBN cites the near doubling of corn prices on the world market in the past year as evidence that this trend has already begun. Factors that are driving up prices include increased demand by the growing world population, as well as the growth of Asian economies. The latter is significant because, as economies prosper, meat consumption increases... and with it, the need for livestock feed. Increasing consumption of bio-fuels will stress grain supplies even further. Throw global warming into the mix (crop yields can fall by up to 5% for every 0.9 degree F rise in temperature) , and the stage is set for possibly much higher food prices worldwide, shortages, and ultimately, mass starvation in the poorest countries.

Writes GBN's Gwynne Dyer, PhD, "In the early stages of this process, higher food prices will help millions of farmers who have been scraping along on very poor returns for their effort because political power lies in the cities, but later it gets uglier. The price of food relative to average income is heading for levels that have not been seen since the early 19th century, and it will not come down again in our lifetimes." [Emphasis added]

Source: Arlington Institute