Sunday, May 8, 2011

Comments On The Rise Of Food Prices

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has raised the alarm on rising food prices.

"We must act now, effectively and cooperatively, to blunt the negative impact of rising food prices and protect people and communities," she said at the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome.

The U.N. estimates that 44 million people world wide have been pushed into poverty since last June because of rising food prices, which could lead to desperate shortages and unrest. Clinton said the world could no longer "keep falling back on providing emergency aid to keep the Band-Aid on."

She called for countries to adopt better policies and "to encourage everyone to respond to rising food prices not with failed policies of the past but with a sounder approach."

Some of those “failed” policies may include the following: During the 2008 crisis, the world's biggest rice producers — Thailand, Vietnam and India — curbed rice exports to protect domestic supply, leading to record high prices. The price of wheat, meanwhile, shot up last year when Russia imposed an export ban after severe drought damaged harvests. Ukraine, another major grain exporter, also imposed export quotas because of the drought.

Time magazine has reported the a major cause of rising food prices may well be the much discussed “climate change” that the world is undergoing.

The hidden story of 2011 has been the record-breaking rise in global food prices. Global corn prices April 2010 and April 2011, while wheat prices are up some 60 to 80%. Exactly why food has gotten so expensive in recent months is the subject of an ongoing debate

Some of the causes may be simple inflation or that the competition for food grains by the biofuel production process which has not lowered local gas prices in any appreciable measure. Natural disasters, like the recent rains and subsequent flooding, which are plaguing the Mississippi Valley currently along with the growing world wide consumption certainly do play a big part. But maybe the largest part is just the greater and greater distances that food has to travel to get to our family tables. The distances and methods of travel which require fossil fuels, the same fossil fuels which are accused of aiding the global “climate change”.

Most all of us realize that locally produced food is better for us and is better for the local economy, but usually carries a premium on price due to the volumes that individual producers can generate. Factory style farms will win out on economies of scale yet temper that victory with reductions in health benefits from crop monoculture, increased processing to combat bacterial or germicidal contamination or just the forced completion of the natural growth cycle to comply with the shipping schedule. Unlike the winemakers who used to advertise that “ they would sell no wine before its time” many fruits and vegetables are today picked in an unripe state and chemically treated so as to arrive on the store shelves looking like “just picked”.

Research and better farming practices have increased crop yield lately throughout a majority of the world but we are now seeing “climate change” or rising temperatures during the growing season begin to reduce some of that. Combined with the greater use of petroleum based fertilizers or genetically modified seeds or insecticides / pesticides allowing for the overuse of many historically rich farmlands and the documented rise of herbicide resistant “superweeds”

Might these also fit into the category of “failed” policies and the more sound approach to food production be a more localized and sustainable methods which got us to this point? I would much rather have lamb from Kentucky than the ones that come from New Zealand. It has to cost less to grow and slaughter here. Milk production should cost less if you removed all the processing involved with replacing the desired qualities that were eliminated through pasteurization. Farmers should be able to sell for less if the costs of hybrid or GMO seeds and chemical fertilizers could be decreased through natural methods. These possibly failing policies which were once alternatives and are now requirements.

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