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Fri Jul 27, 2012, 05:43 AM

The World is Closer to a Food Crisis Than Most People Realize

Published on Thursday, July 26, 2012 by The Guardian/UK

The World is Closer to a Food Crisis Than Most People Realize
Unless we move quickly to adopt new population, energy, and water policies, the goal of eradicating hunger will remain just that
by Lester Brown

In the early spring this year, US farmers were on their way to planting some 96m acres in corn, the most in 75 years. A warm early spring got the crop off to a great start. Analysts were predicting the largest corn harvest on record.Food riots in Algeria in 2008. (Photograph: Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States is the leading producer and exporter of corn, the world's feedgrain. At home, corn accounts for four-fifths of the US grain harvest. Internationally, the US corn crop exceeds China's rice and wheat harvests combined. Among the big three grains – corn, wheat, and rice – corn is now the leader, with production well above that of wheat and nearly double that of rice.

The corn plant is as sensitive as it is productive. Thirsty and fast-growing, it is vulnerable to both extreme heat and drought. At elevated temperatures, the corn plant, which is normally so productive, goes into thermal shock.

As spring turned into summer, the thermometer began to rise across the corn belt. In St Louis, Missouri, in the southern corn belt, the temperature in late June and early July climbed to 100F or higher 10 days in a row. For the past several weeks, the corn belt has been blanketed with dehydrating heat.

rest here: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/26-5

In the comment section following this article, a poster mentions that Bill Gates has purchased 500,000 shares of Monsanto. Is this true?

Then there are these pieces of the puzzle which seem to fit together:

My comment in this older post on DU regarding Warren Buffet: http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=439x2473474

This interview with Ray Suarez of PBS & USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah airing 5-18-2012:


And lastly, this development from another DU post: "Huge water resource exists under Africa dated 4-20-2012:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/112712472 where a poster mentioned something about George W buying land in Paraguay and to which I found this:


Note on the above Paraguay purchase link, I can't seem to find anything definitive which confirms this purchase and also possibly having to do with the Guarani Aquifer...maybe someone else can?

At first I wondered if Brown's piece was alarmist when I first read it...but now in stringing together these other (seemingly unrelated) events...it's starting to add up...and adding up to something deeply disturbing!

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Arrow 15 replies Author Time Post
Reply The World is Closer to a Food Crisis Than Most People Realize (Original post)
BrendaBrick Jul 2012 OP
xchrom Jul 2012 #1
bighughdiehl Jul 2012 #2
BrendaBrick Jul 2012 #3
magical thyme Jul 2012 #5
BrendaBrick Jul 2012 #9
magical thyme Jul 2012 #11
BrendaBrick Jul 2012 #12
magical thyme Jul 2012 #14
BrendaBrick Jul 2012 #4
carla Jul 2012 #7
BrendaBrick Jul 2012 #10
magical thyme Jul 2012 #15
midnight Jul 2012 #6
LeagueShadows24 Jul 2012 #8
BrendaBrick Jul 2012 #13

Response to BrendaBrick (Original post)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 05:47 AM

1. Du rec. Nt

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Response to BrendaBrick (Original post)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 06:01 AM

2. It's inevitable....

but whether it's this year or 10 years from now(can't be much farther off than that), People like
Lester Brown have been saying "it's gonna be this year" for 40 years now, so no one pays
attention anymore. Of course, if policymakers had gotten it into their tiny minds that the question
was always more "when" then "if", something would have been done to ameliorate and make
things more sustainable by now. Lester Brown and Paul Erlich are the boy who cried wolf.
But, the big shots and the public forgot that in the story, the wolf really came eventually.

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Response to bighughdiehl (Reply #2)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 06:51 AM

3. I haven't followed Lester Brown

or Paul Erlich so you may be right about that one! I think the *big shots* (Gates, Buffet, Bush) and this new *Agency for International Development*) know all too well - which explain their purchasing actions and the recent private-public partnership in Africa of USAID.

All I know is that all of this collectively is making me feel really weak in the knees... I really want to be wrong about this!!!

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Response to bighughdiehl (Reply #2)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 08:35 AM

5. exactly.


And it is too late already.

Our current "civilization" is doomed, like it or not. It is a matter of "when" not "if." Nobody can really predict exactly when...there are too many unknown "tripping points" out there.

Our current "factory farm" agricultural practices are not sustainable. Annual tilling destroys topsoil through erosion, which leads to water loss, which leads to further destruction of topsoil and spreading drought.

Large swaths of mono-culture production leaves crops vulnerable to insects and blights. Pesticides lead to resistance and kill off natural bug-eaters, which ultimately leads to more insects.

Heavy reliance on fossil fuels -- used in artificial fertilizers (replacing natural fertilizers and soil conditioners), pesticides, to build and run the farm machinery, to wrap the food products in plastic and ship it thousands of mile -- has contributed to climate change, furthering the "micro-climate" drought in the factory "bread basket."

It is not a matter of "if." It is a matter of when. And since we are only just now beginning to see the effects of CO2 emissions from 40 or so years ago, it is only going to worsen with time. Nothing goes straight up or down when you look at graphs in small enough increments. So there may still be "good" years, but the bad ones will be more frequent and will trend toward record-breaking worse.

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Response to magical thyme (Reply #5)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 07:07 PM

9. is it really *too late*?

sigh. I'd hate to think so. I mean, I can sorta see where all of this might be headed and all...but I mean, is there not some slight glimmer of hope?

Today I felt so disconnected from the *normal* happenings around me. Folks going about their *business as usual* and stuff and I wonder to myself...how much longer can this last? Much easier to be encapsulated/distracted in la-la land - you know? As if like, nothing at all is going on with this stressed planet of ours.

Yesterday I was in a newly-opened grocery store. It was all but vacant save for a few of us mindlessly pushing our shopping carts and browsing upon aisles and aisles of food all neatly stacked in its place and I wonder...how much longer???

I vacillate, to be honest with you. On one hand I think, well just screw it! I'm probably not going to be around - so why care? Damn the torpedoes, I'm just gonna live my life the best way I can and screw tomorrow. Then, on the other hand, I really worry about the future.

It's hard you know. Really hard. The best that I can come up with thus far is to realize that I can't save the world fretting about it in my little office here. Nope. Though I sign many petitions (which really can add up and affect/effect change - I always get those two confused ~) I guess the thing that I CAN DO is to get involved locally with a church food bank I know of and leave it at that. My little 2 cents. All I can do. All any of us can probably do, in the big scheme of things. Getting involved locally. Won't make headlines, to be sure. Probably wouldn't even measure up on some National scale/graph...but I guess to the local folks that are helped...who needs headlines? They get to eat today!

Maybe that's the bottom line. Just getting involved on a local level and leave it at that knowing that you have made a difference in other people's lives for today and maybe - just maybe - that's enough...or at the very least - a very good start.

Certainly better, I reckon, than not actively doing anything at all in the 'hood.

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Response to BrendaBrick (Reply #9)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 07:28 PM

11. I live the best I can


but yes, I believe it is too late. Note that I said for civilization, not necessary for life. Our current lifestyle is totally unsustainable, and the lives and populations of every species on the planet, including humans, will be impacted. And yes, we, too, may well end up extinct.

If we stopped all CO2 emissions today. Stopped them completely, not one more emission, the temperature would continue to rise dramatically for several decades at least based solely on the emissions we've produced until now.

And that's not including tripping points like the thawing peat bogs in Siberia, and the thousands of undersea methane fountains recently discovered spewing in the arctic. Stopping now would not turn them off. Who knows what other surprises lurk around the corner.

I don't expect science and technology to bail us out this time around. Everything has limits. That includes us.

That does not mean it will all end tomorrow or that we should not continue to do what we can. But there is no point in kidding yourself in thinking that there might not be very drastic changes coming, and sooner rather than later. What we are seeing now is only the very beginning.

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Response to magical thyme (Reply #11)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 07:48 PM

12. oh other life forms WILL CONTINUE,

I have no qualms about that whatsoever! Species that have yet to even be *discovered* and live miles down in the deep, dark sea where photosynthesis never penetrates WILL continue. No doubt about that.

I get what you are saying magical thyme and I really appreciate it. I just think that there really isn't clearly enough quantitative and qualitative scientific data at this point and time to warrant without a shadow of a doubt - the end of human civilization. Not to say that the future doesn't look bleak, indeed it truly does - I'm just not quite ready to throw in the towel just yet...

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Response to BrendaBrick (Reply #12)

Sat Jul 28, 2012, 04:39 AM

14. note, I said our *current* civilization


cannot continue. It is not sustainable and it will end (maybe I should have written it will "change drastically" sooner than we think. And the harder we cling to it, the harder the fall will be.

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Response to BrendaBrick (Original post)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 07:28 AM

4. Whoa!

I just found out about this:


The World Economic Forum's Realizing a New Vision for Agriculture initiative addresses the major challenges of global food and agricultural sustainability based on a vision of agriculture as a positive contributor to food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity.

To advance progress toward that vision, the roadmap (see PDF link below) outlines a framework for action to implement business-led and market-based solutions that are explicitly linked to national development priorities.

This initiative directly aligns with the United States' renewed commitment
to agriculture-led development. We proudly support its vision and commit to being a leader in creating synergies between public and private partners to meet the global food security challenge. We also applaud the global companies who are champions of the New Vision Roadmap.

The initiative is led by 17 global companies that are industry partners of the World Economic Forum: Archer Daniels Midland, BASF, Bunge, Cargill, The Coca-Cola Company, DuPont, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Metro, Monsanto Company, Nestlé, PepsiCo, SABMiller, Syngenta, Unilever, Walmart Stores, and Yara International. (bold highlighting is mine)

Surely all of these for-profit conglomerates have not all of a sudden turned all warm & fuzzy and altruistic...or am I just being cynical?


Additionally (and my apologies if this seems scattered and all over the place here...) I ran across these "Controversies & Criticism" about the USAID program as per wiki:

Controversies and criticism

USAID states that "U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world." However, non-government organization watch groups have noted that as much as 40% of aid to Afghanistan has found its way back to donor countries through awarding contracts at inflated costs.[44]

Although USAID officially selects contractors on a competitive and objective basis, watch dog groups, politicians, foreign governments and corporations have occasionally accused the agency of allowing its bidding process to be unduly influenced by the political and financial interests of its current Presidential administration. Under the Bush administration, for instance, it emerged that all five implementing partners selected to bid on a $600 million Iraq reconstruction contract enjoyed close ties to the administration.[45][46]

Some critics[47][48][49][50] say that the US government gives aid to reward political and military partners rather than to advance genuine social or humanitarian causes abroad. Another complaint[51] is that foreign aid is used as a political weapon for the U.S. to elicit desired actions from other nations, an example given in 1990 when the Yemeni Ambassador to the United Nations, Abdullah Saleh al-Ashtal, voted against a resolution for a US-led coalition to use force against Iraq, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Thomas Pickering walked to the seat of the Yemeni Ambassador and retorted: "That was the most expensive No vote you ever cast". Immediately afterwards, USAID ceased operations and funding in Yemen.[52]

William Blum has said that in the 1960s and early 1970s USAID has maintained "a close working relationship with the CIA, and Agency officers often operated abroad under USAID cover."[53] The 1960s-era Office of Public Safety, a now-disbanded division of USAID, has been mentioned as an example of this, having served as a front for training foreign police in counterinsurgency methods.[54]

more at the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Agency_for_International_Development (bottom of the page)

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Response to BrendaBrick (Reply #4)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 02:24 PM

7. Several things I would like

to say; I am an non-certified organic farmer in Central America. Even under such nearly excellent conditions here, agriculture remains a challenge. At times we have no option but to spray or lose the entire crop. That means that even with our best efforts, it is conventional agricultural techniques that save our butts.
Secondly, the Green Revolution, the food one, is based on industrial methods that have worked. But soil depletion and impoverishment has become the bane of large scale agriculture, so the balance is to produce more organically if possible, but it is hard and we mustn't be so naive as to believe we could feed this hungry world without using some degree of chemical application, be it fertilizers or pesticides. I abhor such techniques, as does my husband and our helpers, but we prefer a harvest to an empty basket and sometimes we have to "bite the radish". Despite our very best efforts, organic agriculture remains risky, always.
Thirdly, despite my own distrust of the food conglomerates named in the post, I just don't see how we can provide enough food without their input. I protest and act against seed privatization and untested GMOs, I harvest for seed every season and I vacuum pack my organic seeds for sale and free distribution. Free distribution is extremely important for bio-diversity and I recommend it highly; give seeds to people.

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Response to carla (Reply #7)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 07:18 PM

10. thanks for your input carla

It is a complicated issue, to be sure and I appreciate you sharing your first-hand experience on all of this. I guess my feelings are that these major conglomerates have not typically had the local farmers' interests at heart...at all, - but you have given me a different perspective to consider.

Again, thanks for weighing in your experience!

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Response to BrendaBrick (Reply #4)

Sat Jul 28, 2012, 04:51 AM

15. personally, I don't believe top-down solutions will work


Huge conglomerates will put profits first; they are legally required to and self-interest always rules at every level.

Second, people always put self-interest first; that is normal. However, too many refuse or incapable of recognizing that we not only "share" this planet with other life forms, we are totally interdependent on them in ways we cannot begin to understand or imagine.

Contrary to the teachings of too many religions, the earth and its beings are not "ours" to carve up, use and abuse to meet our whims. We belong to earth, not the other way around.

But I expect the party will continue while the ship goes down; and while those on the upper decks dance, those consigned to the bottom decks drown.

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Response to BrendaBrick (Original post)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 08:36 AM

6. Yes it is... And those banksters have been ushering it in with vulgar greed...

Last edited Fri Jul 27, 2012, 05:15 PM - Edit history (1)

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Response to BrendaBrick (Original post)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 04:21 PM

8. this is why

I'm learning how to be self sufficient as much as possible

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Response to LeagueShadows24 (Reply #8)

Fri Jul 27, 2012, 08:23 PM

13. Probably not a bad idea

Welcome to DU

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