PREVENT LAND GRABBING
An ugly side of current scares over future food supply is wealthy, land-poor states, like those in the Gulf and South Korea, acquiring tracts of undeveloped countries to use as allotments. It is a campaigning cause of the multi-charity IF campaign against hunger. Ethiopia, Sudan, Madagascar and Cambodia have been targeted and a total area the size of Spain may already have been acquired.
Problem: Hard to police. Difficult to distinguish between genuine investment in Africa and the expropriation of land from the poor who need it to grow their food.
BLOCK THE SPECULATORS
Huge sums of investment fund money have flooded into the commodities markets since the financial crisis, looking for returns no longer available in equities. Automated trading systems that exploit tiny flaws in the market and encourage volatility make it impossible for traditional traders to keep prices stable and hedge against spikes.
Problem: Much discussed in the G20 and G8, an international agreement on reforming and regulating the commodities markets looks no nearer than when the problem was first identified. Banks and investors have marshalled strong arguments against interference.
PRODUCE LESS BIOFUEL
The pressure to achieve targets on reduced carbon emissions from fossil fuels has seen rich countries turning sugar, maize and other food crops into ethanol and biodiesel.
Problems: Many economists doubt how important this issue really is in food price rises. Food and fuel prices are inextricably linked, so producing biofuel may lower food prices. A proportion of food crops have always been used for energy – 100 years ago 10% of the world’s grain went to feeding horses. Second-generation biofuels won’t use food crops, but wood, stalks and other waste.
STOP THE MEAT FEAST
Meat production is a wasteful use of the planet’s limited resources – even today, 40% of grain crops are going to feed livestock and fish. It is most inefficient with intensive beef farming, where it has been shown that just 2.5% of the feed given to cattle emerges as calories for our consumption.
That is why the UN says agricultural production will have to rise 60% to feed the extra 2 billion mouths in 2050.
Problems: There is no international mechanism to regulate or alter collective human diets, and no models other than famine that have ever worked.