Editor’s note: We’re proud to support the Earth Policy Institute’s online publication of Lester Brown’s book Full Planet, Empty Plates by publishing selections from the book. If you missed other installments, you can find them here; we’ll add new ones every couple of weeks. By Lester R. Brown As food supplies have tightened, a new geopolitics of food has […]
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By Lester R. Brown Overnight, China has become a leading world grain importer, set to buy a staggering 22 million tons in the 2013–14 trade year, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture projections. As recently as 2006—just eight years ago—China had a grain surplus and was exporting 10 million tons. What caused this […]
Editor’s note: We’re proud to support the Earth Policy Institute’s online publication of Lester Brown’s book Full Planet, Empty Plates by publishing selections from the book. If you missed other installments, you can find them here; we’ll add new ones every couple of weeks. By Lester R. Brown At the international level, water conflicts among countries dominate the headlines. […]
Between 2007 and mid-2008, world grain and soybean prices more than doubled. As food prices climbed everywhere, some exporting countries began to restrict grain shipments in an effort to limit food price inflation at home.Importing countries panicked. Some tried to negotiate long-term grain supply agreements with exporting countries, but in a seller’s market, few were successful. Seemingly overnight, importing countries realized that one of their few options was to find land in other countries on which to produce food for themselves.
Throughout most of human existence, population growth has been so slow as to be imperceptible within a single generation. Reaching a global population of 1 billion in 1804 required the entire time since modern humans appeared on the scene. To add the second billion, it took until 1927, just over a century. Thirty-three years later, in 1960, world population reached 3 billion. Then the pace sped up, as we added another billion every 13 years or so until we hit 7 billion in late 2011.
The world is in transition from an era of food abundance to one of scarcity. Learn more about this frightening transition in chapter one of Lester Brown’s Full Planet, Empty Plates.
Human history provides numerous examples of where food scarcity can lead: collapse. Is our own food insecurity similar to the Mayans and Sumerians?