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A number of organizations warn that changing temperatures and other global factors are contributing to a worldwide depletion of food supplies.
As food reserves disappear, costs have skyrocketed. Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Jacques Diouf cautioned the United Nations on global food security. With rising transportation costs choking food shipments to developing nations, starvation for more of the world’s poor appears just over the horizon.
Climate specialists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Canberra, Australia, claim the average temperatures of many Third World nations are rising, affecting local agriculture.
An increase of only one to three degrees Fahrenheit could result in widespread blight, or traumatic conditions such as drought, hurricanes or floods. These events would severely inhibit “traditional” growing techniques. Since farmers depend on good weather for their crops, they would be defenseless against a drastic change in local climate.
Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program, said in a telephone interview that the cost of providing food for the program has doubled in the last five years. With the rise in oil prices, ship transportation costs also doubled. This has limited the ability to provide food for countries where shortages are imminent. As Ms. Sheeran explained, the world’s poor are being “priced out of the food market” (International Herald Tribune).
A 2006 report released by the FAO estimates that 854 million people will be at risk of starvation and malnutrition, with 820 million of those from developing countries.
Since technology allows flexibility in addressing food shortages, climate change has less effect in modernized nations such as the United States, Britain and many countries in Europe. These nations use genetically modified crops, which resist high temperatures. Europe is planning to use its economic leverage to remove taxes on grain imports in January to ease the cost of domestic cereals, which will adversely affect nations with weak economies.
In the United States, farmers are shifting from growing food-grade corn toward corn used in biofuels, which is also contributing to food shortages. The lucrative subsidized sale of ethanol has attracted farmers who are looking to make a profit. Although the American government has made little progress moderating this “exodus,” Europe has made strides by setting low target budgets in their biofuel subsidies, allowing farmers to garner a small profit by selling to the government.
Most suppose that a global food shortage crisis is impossible. In response to this common misconception, Francesco Tubiello of Columbia University said, “Many people assume that we will never have a problem with food production on a global scale, but there is a strong potential for negative surprises.”