News Stories

Food Shortages in the Future

We're all used to seeing images of famine in Third World countries, but this is usually because of local farming conditions or because war has disrupted the distribution of food supplies. However, worldwide food shortages are predicted for the future, and not just because of global warming.

The push to create biofuels is part of the problem, since land that once grew food is now being planted in corn and other plants that can be turned into fuel. In the March 7th edition of British newspaper The Guardian, James Randerson quotes John Beddington as saying, "There is progress on climate change. But out there is another major problem. It is very hard to imagine how we can see a world growing enough crops to produce renewable energy and at the same time meet the enormous increase in the demand for food which is quite properly going to happen as we alleviate poverty." The agriculture industry needs to basically do the impossible: "?double its food production, using less water than today." Beddington adds, "Some of the biofuels are hopeless. The idea that you cut down rainforest to actually grow biofuels seems profoundly stupid."

Biofuel production may increase the ocean "dead zone," an area where fish cannot live, and cause food shortages for large parts of the world for which fish are a staple food source. In LiveScience.com, Andrea Thompson explains that fertilizer run off is the cause of the huge phytoplankton growth that causes this to occur in the Gulf of Mexico, and corn is the main culprit.

As if all that wasn't enough, a dangerous new fungus with the ability to destroy entire wheat fields has been detected in Iran. We know that these wheat stem rust spores can be carried by wind across continents, since they previously showed up in East Africa and Yemen. 80% per cent of all Asian and African varieties of wheat are susceptible to the fungus. UN News quotes Shivaji Pandey as saying, "The fungus is spreading rapidly and could seriously lower wheat production in countries at direct risk." These include the major wheat-producing nations of Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. If there is famine in the Middle East, there will be even more violence there than there is now.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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