Food Crisis: "Today It's Oil, In Ten Or Fifteen Years, Food"

3 days of the condor image

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We read in Financial Times this week that we may be heading for a new global food crisis. Of course that depends on where you live, and where you get your food. How are we doing, dear readers...? Should we be worried?

Almost unnoticed, agricultural commodities prices have returned to levels last seen at the start of the 2007-2008 food crisis, prompting concerns about a fresh rise in food costs.

"Agricultural markets are fairly nervous," says Sudakshina Unnikrishnan, an agricultural commodities analyst at Barclays Capital in London. "We are not in the comfortable food surplus environment of the 1980s and 1990s." Concerns mount over fresh rise in food costs

Reading the Financial Times, doesn't it make you want to watchThree Days Of The Condor with Robert Redford, Cliff Robertson, Faye Dunaway and Max von Sydow:

"Today It's Oil, In Ten Or Fifteen Years, Food"

A lot of people would do very well to spend more time growing their own food, or at least getting started. I liked Sami's post on Instant Vegetable Gardens for UK Foodies. Truly, for most people, suddenly being forced to start gardening to feed themselves would be very, very difficult.

World Foodless Day

Last October, NGOs and experts in Asia held a number of conferences under the theme of World Foodless Day. Difficult topic, I know. Most of us just don't want to think about that even as a remote possibility. Yet, it is reality in many parts of the world.

The current food crisis affecting the world is the latest calamity to hit the rural women and other poor and marginalised peoples in every developing country. The price of rice, wheat, soy, corn and other staples has skyrocketed. This year, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that 850 million people do not get enough food to eat in the world. Three-quarters of them live in rural areas, mainly in the villages of Asia Pacific and Africa, and seven out of ten are women and girls.

PANAP: World Foodless Day

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Image: Consumers Union of Japan

Here in Japan, some 60% of the food is imported. That amounts to a very high food mileage, and a very low food self-sufficiency rate. Toshiki Mashimo at Consumers Union of Japan has estimated that Japan could do a lot better, if consumption patterns change (reduce meat intake, go for local production, reclaim farm fields that have been abandoned due to trade policies and other factors). He asks, To what level could Japan's food self-sufficiency recover? And Mashimo-san's answer is, "somewhere in the region of 75-80%."

That would still mean Japan - and South Korea, another country here in East Asia with large imports - will continue to depend on the ships and containers arriving each day. South Korea was in the news lately trying to secure deals in developing countries, such as Madagascar and Sudan, to feed its people. Japan has proposed to halt "farmland grabbing" and encourage responsible investing in agriculture:

Japan will propose the initiative at the G8 summit in l'Aquila, Italy, in July, where food security will be a top issue. The G8 ministers of agriculture, at their first ever meeting last month, already warned on their communiqué that "attention should be given to the leasing and purchase of agricultural land in developing countries, to ensure that local and traditional land use is respected."

Joachim von Braun, head of the International Food Research Policy Institute, a Washington-based think- tank funded by governments, said the US was likely to be supportive of Japan's initiative as long as such guidelines were not restrictive. "This is encouraging," he said. "Japan can best provide leadership among the G8 nations on this issue because it understands the potential of small farm agriculture."

The principles Japan is proposing would call for greater transparency in investment deals, respect for existing land rights, sharing benefits with locals and environmental sustainability.

The only thing I can be sure of is that food crisis will continue to be a major topic here at Treehugger.

Food crisis:

UK Chief Scientist: Food Crisis Will Bite Before Climate Change
On Global Food Crisis, Bill Clinton Says "We Blew It"
Business Week on Monsanto, Pickens

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