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Food prices predicted to treble and nations to compete for access to land and water for crops according to “experts.”

foodsecThe head of the Global Food Security working group, Prof Tim Benton of Leeds University, claims that food will be “the key issue” and that there could be food shortages in Britain. Helpfully he suggests ways of reducing the demand for food, saying that ideally our calorie consumption should be cut by one-third, that pack sizes in supermarkets should be cut, and that buy-one-get-one-free offers should be outlawed. And restaurants should play their part by serving up smaller portions.

Part of this twaddle derives from believing alarmist and implausible estimates for world population growth which has already begun to slow, and will probably peak at about 10bn. Part derives from a Malthusian underestimate of human ingenuity. We are producing more per acre, and GM crops will give us the ability to increase yield further, and to produce crops tolerant of saline or arid conditions.

It is the same type of linear projection that gave us “peak oil,” now looking laughably silly in the light of the shale revolution and the advances coming along in photovoltaic technology. The world does not work like that. When humans see problems they turn their intelligence and creativity to devising solutions. If prices rise with demand, resources are committed to increasing supply, and to developing the technology to make it possible. For what it’s worth, I think it far more likely that we will be able to produce enough food, and that we’ll be able to put more of it towards those who are currently not receiving enough of it.


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