present food levels are unsustainable

The UN has admitted what looks like defeat in the battle to keep global malnutrition at bay.  Essentially the organisation has said that it just does not have the funds to feed the many starving people who require its help.

The reason?  Commodity prices, which are sky-rocketing.  People who were just outside of the hunger gap, are now unable to afford the basic foodstuffs they need.

“We will have a problem in coming months,” said Josette Sheeran, the head of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP). “We will have a significant gap if commodity prices remain this high, and we will need an extra half billion dollars just to meet existing assessed needs.”

“This is the new face of hunger,” Sheeran said. “There is food on shelves but people are priced out of the market. There is vulnerability in urban areas we have not seen before. There are food riots in countries where we have not seen them before.”

WFP officials say the extraordinary increases in the global price of basic foods were caused by a “perfect storm” of factors: a rise in demand for animal feed from increasingly prosperous populations in India and China, the use of more land and agricultural produce for biofuels, and climate change. (The Guardian)

Two of the big villains in all this – are meat and bio fuels.  So its a stark reminder that simply switching to bio fuel for our cars, (or airlines) is no magic trick to save the world.

Its also a spur for those of us who claim that we must all eat less meat.  The fact that to produce a kilo of beef requires many kilos of grain doesnt need a great deal of explanation, and it simply requires us all to cut back our meat consumption.

The upshot of all this is that the UN’s World Food Programme may well have to cut back food aid now, this in an era when we’re putting grain into our cars…

“the World Bank reports that the US has used 20 per cent of its maize production for biofuels and the European Union 68 per cent of its vegetable oil production. This change in usage has boosted prices, reduced the supply of these crops available for food and encouraged the substitution of other agricultural land from food to biofuel production.”  The Financial Times.

Sobering.

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