Friday, March 18, 2011

Five Second: Economist on the new food regime; Part 3

If I had realized I was so close to finishing this, it would have only been a two part blog post. Oh well.

Companies have invested four times as much in maize as in wheat, and yields have accordingly increased twice as fast. This article discusses possible advances being worked on in wheat. “It is a long shot, but by 2050 wheat plants could be making their own fertilizer…”

One potential downside of the full-costing/polluter pays/payment for environment services approach we advocate in our upcoming textbook:
If there were a real carbon price, farmers would think of their fields in terms of the carbon embodied in crops and soil. That in turn would influence what they grow (elephant grass, perhaps, rather than wheat). And they would have to decide not just which crops to plant but whether to use them for food, carbon capture or things like bio-industrial raw materials. Competition for crops is already a problem, and likely to get worse.
The Economist concludes on an upbeat note: “There are plenty of reasons to worry about food: uncertain politics, volatile prices, hunger amid plenty. Yet when all is said and done, the world is at the start of a new agricultural revolution that could, for the first time ever, feed all mankind adequately.”

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