More research needed to keep down food prices

September 15, 2009

A study published in Science Magazine shows that without increased investment in agricultural research and development, food will become scarcer and prices will continue to soar. University of Minnesota researchers found that agricultural productivity—that is the amount of food output compared to resource input—has been growing at a much slower rate in the last 19 years in comparison to the growth from 1961 to 1990.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the world’s population will hit 9 billion by 2043. This, coupled with decreasing productivity growth, poses a serious problem because food supplies will be unable to keep pace with the world’s ever growing demand. The world’s poorest populations will take the hardest hit, the researchers said, because they spend 70–80% of their income on food. Americans only spend 10–15% of their income on food.

Growing incomes are also taking a toll on the world’s food supply as people eat more meat-based products, including eggs and milk. The production of meat and meat-based products requires a greater portion of basic crops like corn and wheat to feed animals.

Over the past 50 years, yields for basic crops like corn, rice, wheat and soybeans has more than doubled, according to the article. Questions arise as to whether the earth can continue to sustain the human population and are compounded by the concept that there is a limit to how much food the earth can produce.

Abstract

Minnesota Daily article