Food Prices: Turning Plenty Into Poverty?

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Food Prices: Turning Plenty Into Poverty?

Food Prices: Turning Plenty Into Poverty?

The issues of poverty and hunger have been prevalent for as long as humanity has existed

and today, more than ever, warrant our utmost attention. Our rapidly growing population

necessitates an equally rapid increase in food production, which comes at a price. The United

Nations DESA News (DESA) argues that this increase in cost is contributing to the multitudes of

people who collapse into poverty and food deprivation, despite the fact that there is a surplus of

food on Earth. As for why food prices are escalating after years of declining, they propose six

reasons: adverse weather the rise in oil prices speculation in foodstuffs the increasing use of

grain to produce biofuels, the steep rise of meat consumption, and inadequate world agricultural

policies. We learned that the discoveries of Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and Norman Borlaug

allowed science to make positive progress towards the goal of ending world hunger; however,

with the new increased population growth and the above-mentioned impingements, have we

returned to a pre-Green-Revolution state of food crisis?

The DESA claims that global food prices declined 75% from 1974 to 2005 due to the

cheap cost of oil, making the main source of hunger in this time period not from high pricing, but

from uneven distribution and access to the food supply. However, this changed in 2005 when oil

prices tripled from $40.00 to $120.00, causing food expenses to balloon back to the 1974 high. In

lecture 1, we learned that food travels an average of 1,500 miles before it reaches our table,

which means 1,500 miles worth of fuel solely from transportation. We also have to consider the

fact that mechanization of farmlands over the years has increased the amount of oil used in

producing crops. Since 2005, the amount of money United States farms spend on fuel each year

2

has increased by 14 billion dollars; however, U.S. farm fuel expenditures still remain a constant

20% of the total U.S. fuel consumption. Fuel is not the only resource that is causing farmers to

spend more money and drive up the cost of food; according to the DESA, global warming has

been slowly shifting climates around the world and creating adverse weather conditions for

agriculture since 2005.

With this change has come droughts and heavy rains that are “shifting back the supply of

basic foodstuffs such as wheat, corn, and rice.” In lecture 2, we learned that Henry Wallace

developed a form of hybrid corn that produced better yields than its parents, and that Norman

Borlaug bred high-yielding, short-stalked, disease-resistant wheat which saved over 1 billion

people from starvation. These innovations, combined with the creation of the Haber-Bosch

nitrogen synthesis process, created a Green Revolution that allowed the world to produce a

surplus of food. Now, the DESA implies that these discoveries won’t be enough due to climate

change causing higher prices in agriculture. Droughts increase the need to water crops in areas

that previously might not have needed it and require farmers to spend more money than usual on

water. Also, severe weather conditions cause crop loss, which in turn increases the price for

remaining crops due to their scarcity. Not only do we have to consider crop production in the

price of food, but also meat consumption.

As the DESA states and as we learned in lecture 5, “the rising prosperity in emerging

economies has led to an increase in the consumption of meat.” Raising animals for consumption

requires not only the production of enough grains to feed the human population, but also to feed

the multitudes of animals that we consume. According to the DESA, “this places a

disproportionate pressure on price of grain as livestock feed, and also on water resources, as

compared to the production of grain for human consumption.” In lecture 5, we calculated that we

3

could not physically feed our population if everyone’s diet consisted of the amount of meat and

dairy in an average United States citizen’s diet; however, if every person was a vegetarian, there

would be enough food for 18 billion people. This is one of the solutions the DESA is promoting

to lower food prices and spare natural resources such as water and forests.

The United Nations DESA News believes that it is because of high food prices that

millions of people are threatened with hunger. The reasons they suggest for the spike in cost are

global warming, the rise in oil prices, increased consumption of meat, speculation in foodstuffs,

the increasing use of grain in biofuels, and inadequate world agricultural policies. The

viewpoints and data they give in support of these claims agree with what was presented to us in

class and our lectures, if anything, help to strengthen their claims. Based on this article, a new

Green Revolution is needed to bring greater agricultural productivity to the world and to help

lessen the expenses of agriculture in order to better feed the growing population.

Food Prices: Turning Plenty Into Poverty?

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Food Prices: Turning Plenty Into Poverty?

Food Prices: Turning Plenty Into Poverty?

The issues of poverty and hunger have been prevalent for as long as humanity has existed

and today, more than ever, warrant our utmost attention. Our rapidly growing population

necessitates an equally rapid increase in food production, which comes at a price. The United

Nations DESA News (DESA) argues that this increase in cost is contributing to the multitudes of

people who collapse into poverty and food deprivation, despite the fact that there is a surplus of

food on Earth. As for why food prices are escalating after years of declining, they propose six

reasons: adverse weather the rise in oil prices speculation in foodstuffs the increasing use of

grain to produce biofuels, the steep rise of meat consumption, and inadequate world agricultural

policies. We learned that the discoveries of Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch, and Norman Borlaug

allowed science to make positive progress towards the goal of ending world hunger; however,

with the new increased population growth and the above-mentioned impingements, have we

returned to a pre-Green-Revolution state of food crisis?

The DESA claims that global food prices declined 75% from 1974 to 2005 due to the

cheap cost of oil, making the main source of hunger in this time period not from high pricing, but

from uneven distribution and access to the food supply. However, this changed in 2005 when oil

prices tripled from $40.00 to $120.00, causing food expenses to balloon back to the 1974 high. In

lecture 1, we learned that food travels an average of 1,500 miles before it reaches our table,

which means 1,500 miles worth of fuel solely from transportation. We also have to consider the

fact that mechanization of farmlands over the years has increased the amount of oil used in

producing crops. Since 2005, the amount of money United States farms spend on fuel each year

2

has increased by 14 billion dollars; however, U.S. farm fuel expenditures still remain a constant

20% of the total U.S. fuel consumption. Fuel is not the only resource that is causing farmers to

spend more money and drive up the cost of food; according to the DESA, global warming has

been slowly shifting climates around the world and creating adverse weather conditions for

agriculture since 2005.

With this change has come droughts and heavy rains that are “shifting back the supply of

basic foodstuffs such as wheat, corn, and rice.” In lecture 2, we learned that Henry Wallace

developed a form of hybrid corn that produced better yields than its parents, and that Norman

Borlaug bred high-yielding, short-stalked, disease-resistant wheat which saved over 1 billion

people from starvation. These innovations, combined with the creation of the Haber-Bosch

nitrogen synthesis process, created a Green Revolution that allowed the world to produce a

surplus of food. Now, the DESA implies that these discoveries won’t be enough due to climate

change causing higher prices in agriculture. Droughts increase the need to water crops in areas

that previously might not have needed it and require farmers to spend more money than usual on

water. Also, severe weather conditions cause crop loss, which in turn increases the price for

remaining crops due to their scarcity. Not only do we have to consider crop production in the

price of food, but also meat consumption.

As the DESA states and as we learned in lecture 5, “the rising prosperity in emerging

economies has led to an increase in the consumption of meat.” Raising animals for consumption

requires not only the production of enough grains to feed the human population, but also to feed

the multitudes of animals that we consume. According to the DESA, “this places a

disproportionate pressure on price of grain as livestock feed, and also on water resources, as

compared to the production of grain for human consumption.” In lecture 5, we calculated that we

3

could not physically feed our population if everyone’s diet consisted of the amount of meat and

dairy in an average United States citizen’s diet; however, if every person was a vegetarian, there

would be enough food for 18 billion people. This is one of the solutions the DESA is promoting

to lower food prices and spare natural resources such as water and forests.

The United Nations DESA News believes that it is because of high food prices that

millions of people are threatened with hunger. The reasons they suggest for the spike in cost are

global warming, the rise in oil prices, increased consumption of meat, speculation in foodstuffs,

the increasing use of grain in biofuels, and inadequate world agricultural policies. The

viewpoints and data they give in support of these claims agree with what was presented to us in

class and our lectures, if anything, help to strengthen their claims. Based on this article, a new

Green Revolution is needed to bring greater agricultural productivity to the world and to help

lessen the expenses of agriculture in order to better feed the growing population.

Food Prices: Turning Plenty Into Poverty?