Westar Trade Resources Blog

Food Vs. Fuel - Will There Be Enough Food?

Posted by Laina Rose

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Five decades ago the global population was half of what it is today and continues to grow at an exponential speed. The world's population is projected to hit nine billion by mid-century, up from 6.7 billion today. Can we feed all of these people? Is there currently enough natural resources to create not only food, but to power more vehicles, to bring clean water to more homes, to create enough resources to sustain the world as we know it?

U.S. farmers are on track to produce the third largest corn crop in history, while corn prices have nearly doubled over the past year indicating a growing world demand. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's most recent estimate predicts that for the first time, American farmers will harvest more corn for ethanol than for feed. 

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Nestle's chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, believes the world will be able to feed itself but only if the way our world operates changes directions in some key areas. He believes that we must stop burning food for fuel, fearing genetic advances and failing to charge for water.

Not only is the world population growing, so is the middle class and the demand for meat.  Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe says that "[meat] has a multiplier effect of 10. You need 10 times as much land, 10 times as much [feed], 10 times as much water to produces one calorie of meat as you do to have one calorie of vegetables or grain". 

Even so, we are capable of satisfying this increased demand-if we choose to. "If politicians of this world really want to tackle food security," Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe says, "there's only one decision they have to make: No food for fuel....They just have to say 'No food for fuel,' and supply and demand would balance again."

Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe also argues "The energy market is 20 times as big, in calories, as the food market." So when people say they want to replace 20% of the energy market through the food market this means they would have to triple food production to meet that goal, and that is before we eat the first kernel of corn that is grown.

Making enough corn to meet this demand seems like a lofty goal when you start to do the math. If it is possible, there would need to be a strong and steady supply source. Using GMOs seems to be the natural option in order to sustain that viable food source. Mr. Brabeck-Letmathe says, "you will see that the yield per hectare has increased by about 30% over the past few years. Whereas the yields from the non-GMO crops are flat to slightly declining." and that gap, he says, "is a voluntary gap...It's just a political decision." 


To read the complete article from the Wall Street Journal click here.

For a report on September Crop Production for the U.S. click here.




Topics: Renewable Energy, Renewable Sources, Ethanol fuels, Biofuels, Ethanol