Oil or Soil? Eat or Fight?

June 2, 2011 at 8:30 pm Leave a comment

Which environmental problems are global in their reach? Population growth? Energy supplies? Climate Change? Yes, all of those, but don’t forget food. For the first time ever, Foreign Policy magazine has devoted an entire issue to global food issues. The June 2 issue is titled: The Food Issue: Inside the Geopolitics of a Hungry Planet. Feature articles include:

  • Eat, Drink, Protest “Buying Peace, One Feast at a Time” By Annia Ciezadlo
  • 1 Billion People Are Hungry “More Than 1 Billion People Are Hungry in the World” By Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo
  • The Baguettes of War “Inside the Middle East’s Defiant Kitchens” By Anna Badkhen
  • The 21st-century Food Wars “The New Geopolitics of Food” By Lester R. Brown

Also check out the sidebars: The Planet’s Stupidest Food Fad? and 10 Ways You Are What You Eat and the two slide shows.

I’ve read Lester Brown‘s revealing article. His ideas should challenge everyone to reconsider what ‘global food security’ means. For example, he points two large and growing dust bowls in China and Africa, and says, “Civilization can survive the loss of its oil reserves, but it cannot survive the loss of its soil reserves.” He also points to a worrisome new trend: resource-strapped countries purchasing resources from other countries. These “resource grabs” take various forms, from purchasing land in a foreign country in order to raise crops to send home, to purchasing several years of the foreign country’s food production. Just imagine: suppose country X (Mexico? China? South Korea?) purchases 10 years of some portion of the US corn harvest (say 40 million tons per year) and then a drought in the Midwest causes US corn production to fall, or even fail. Would the US producers honor their foreign contracts? If they did, food prices in the US would skyrocket as US consumers competed for the leftovers. Lester Brown spoke with an interviewer on NPR’s Fresh Air about these problems. Listen here. And visit Lester Brown’s Earth Policy Institute.


Entry filed under: In the News.

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