Food Price Hikes – Crisis and Opportunity?

The drastic rises in prices of food during 2007-2008 had severe consequences, but could such rises present an opportunity? Antonio Martuscelli believes “High food prices in the short-run are very damaging for low-income groups of the population in developing countries. At the same time, high prices are an incentive for producers and extremely important for generating an aggregate supply response and to re-establish a long-run equilibrium.” His work is published in CAB Reviews in the run-up to CABI’s Global Summit on “Food Security in a Climate of Change” in London, 19-21 October.

Martuscelli, of the University of Sussex says that it is vital that short- and long-term issues are balanced. “The problem of high prices of basic food commodities exposes governments and societies to a great challenge that can only be addressed by means of a comprehensive food policy for the coming years. The challenge is to address the adverse impact of high food prices in the short run without compromising the long-run equilibrium of agricultural markets.”

Martuscelli’s views are published in one of a series of papers in CAB Reviews (listed below) on the food crises published over the last few months. These reviews look at issues such as the extent to which diversion of resources to biofuel production could be a factor.

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Is this really the future of food?

A few weeks ago we were discussing beer – or rather the lack of it expected
as a result of climate change. This week, Chalmers
University of Technology
in Sweden has unveiled a new superfood. Even less
appealing than no beer, this rather unappetising dish is the Swedish equivalent
of tempeh and was brewed up as part of a Ph.D. research project.

As the student responsible, Charlotte Eklund-Jonsson, explains, the main
objectives behind her work were to develop a whole grain product that did not
lose its available iron content. Normally with barley, you can have whole grain
or high iron availability. Fermenting it with the micro-fungus Rhizopus
* (something my colleagues at CABI
know a lot about), she has managed to preserve all the benefits of a high
fibre-whole grain, high folate food, while doubling the availability of the iron
it contains. Eklund Jonsson points out that while it was designed as a highly
nutritious foodstuff for vegetarians, the fact that it is produced from barley
or oats – locally produced in Sweden; might also make it an attractive choice
for consumers of the ‘green’ persuasion.

But seriously – however much responsibility we are willing to accept for
using up all the oil, do we really deserve this?

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Easier being green…

Last Saturday, I cycled to Tesco’s*. It’s around five miles away from where I
live, so wasn’t a huge effort and, to be fair, I could use the extra exercise. I
stress this because I’m about to mention the environment. Before you head off to
the ‘post comment’ box below, I must stress that my environmental credentials
aren’t great. Like many of us, I guess I do my bit, but sometimes find this
relationship a bit one sided. My meagre efforts at saving it are simply not
appreciated. It must be that unconditional love that only a parent could show a
tempestuous child. As if to prove my point, as I headed out of Tesco’s with a
re-usable bag of groceries on my back, it rained. It seems to do this most times
I ‘do my bit for the environment’ and leave the car at home.

The environment clearly doesn’t appreciate my efforts.

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Earth Day – What’s Your Story?

Fuel shortages, Famine, Disease, Extinction, Floods, Drought…So this is ‘Earth Day’. Hardly something to look forward to is it?

At CABI, we work tirelessly under the assumption that most people we’re likely to come across believe that ‘saving the planet’ is a Good Thing. But what are we really trying to save? Are we saving the planet for later? Are we trying to preserve it the way it is? Are we in the western, economically privileged world trying to preserve our world the way it is at the expense of the struggling populations suffering malnutrition and disease at the hands of climate change that we ourselves have helped create?

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