Presentation on theme: " Food is the most important single resource for humanity. It’s renewable, but scarce too. Are we going to have enough food in the future? In his work,"— Presentation transcript:
Food is the most important single resource for humanity. It’s renewable, but scarce too. Are we going to have enough food in the future? In his work, Lomborg (a Danish statistician) argues against the works of Lester Brown (an American environmentalist), who claimed that “the world is on an economic and demographic path that is environmentally unsustainable”. Brown’s principal examination was that of grain prices. Grain production per capita is declining (the USSR’s collapse and CAP restructuring are somewhat to blame), but, in both the developed and developing worlds, calorie intake per capita has increased. There is also more food per head in all places. Food production has not lost any momentum, as Brown had claimed. Lomborg offers a three-pronged attack against Brown’s tirades.
1. Are we reaching the biological and physiological limits of plant efficiency? 2. Are the top yielders restricting production or are most Third World farmers growing well below the yields they could produce? 3. Does humanity need high food production growth rates? Population growth is slowing, and there is a limit to the number of calories we can consume each day.
Brown argues that we must face the realities of an age of scarcity. However, since then, yields have exceeded what Brown said would be the “maximum” levels. This has been achieved through new strains (pest resistance, quality, crop duration, water/nutrient requirements), pesticides, fertilisers, labour management, etc. There are no “walls” to prevent the achievement of even higher yields.
In developing countries, “peasants” achieve less than half the maximally attainable yields, but that is changing, e.g.: Syria (wheat yields quadrupled since 1960 [genetics, irrigation, education]). Smaller population growth, fewer people needing more food ⇒ less growth required. Possible moral dilemma? 19611998 W. Pop. Starving35%18% LDC Daily p.c.1,932kcal2,663kcal
FAO recommends 64 days’ worth of grain stocks. Incentives for surpluses cut out in EU; world trade more flexible ⇒ large stocks unnecessary; also feed-grain buffer, security in everyday life. Basically, Brown predicts that everything in China will go wrong: IFPRI argue he ought not to be taken seriously. Brown worried, but, compared to the productivity increases in agriculture, the effect of soil erosion is so small that it cannot justify extra effort to combat it. Fishing: moving from today’s Tragedy of the Commons to intensive fish-farming to ensure future supplies and biodiversity.
Brown’s arguments carry little weight. Food security is better than ever, thanks to trade. No reason to believe China will shake up the world food market. Fisheries not important, but increasing anyway. FAO predicts more food for more people in 2010, 2015 and 2030. Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa will still cause issues: hardship of having to import more food. Overall, food is getting cheaper, and more people are eating more and better food.