Biofuels and food prices:  Reconciling the different estimates of the relationship.  Econbrowser has this attempt to reconcile the CEA view that ethanol subsidies are a small factor and the World Bank/IMF view that biofuels production is a major cause.

posted June 5, 2008 at 4:10 p.m.

Amartya Sen on the World Food Crisis.   "The global food problem is not being caused by a falling trend in world production, or for that matter in food output per person (this is often asserted without much evidence). It is the result of accelerating demand. However, a demand-induced problem also calls for rapid expansion in food production, which can be done through more global cooperation.". Link via Greg Mankiw's blog.  Original article here.

posted June 5, 2008 at 9:30 a.m.

Bono:  What Africa can learn from Ireland.  "He said that while Ireland now enjoys some of the world's highest salaries, '20 years ago our economy was down the toilet, the IMF was telling us what to do and the World Bank was down our pants'."  More here.


posted June 5, 2008 at 9:10 a.m.

What's on the Menu at the Emergency Food Summit in Rome?  Unlike 2002 Conference, no foie gras and no lobster

posted June 5, 2008 at 9 a.m.

Future Water Shortages.  "A catastrophic water shortage could prove an even bigger threat to mankind this century than soaring food prices and the relentless exhaustion of energy reserves, according to a panel of global experts."  More here.

posted June 5, 2008 at 8:30 a.m.

Oil Prices, Food prices, Biofuels.  One of the causes of the recent run-up in food prices is that energy prices have also skyrocketed.  What are long term prospects for energy prices?  The Bakken field in Montana (link via Instapundit) contains as much oil as the main oil field in Saudi Arabia, and recent technological advances may make the Montana oil recoverable.  Another reason for optimism:  The possibility of making biofuel from algae grown in tanks in the desert.  UPDATE.  The euphoria over the Bakken formation is "nonsense".   UPDATE 2:  what about cold fusion?

posted June 5, 2008 at 7:20 a.m

update posted June 6, 2008 at 9:30 a.m.

update posted June 9, 2008 at 8:30 a.m.

Thursday at the Emergency Food Summit in Rome.  "Political squabbling put a U.N. summit on the global food crisis at risk of closing on Thursday without a powerful declaration on how to stop millions more people going hungry."  Reuters.

posted June 5, 2008 at 7:10 a.m.

Wednesday at the Emergency Food Summit in Rome.  Quotable quotes from the NY Times.

“The era of food aid is over — there is no more sending food from America to Africa.”  Kofi Annan

Transport costs  soak up 50 percent of US  food aid money.  Henrietta Fore, administrator of USAID.

“I doubt there will be a positive agreement on biofuels”   US Secretary of Agriculture  Ed Shafer.

Money is crucial for food aid to feed the world’s hungry. But preventing food crises will require more difficult policy changes. World Bank President Bob Zoellick.

“...absurdly protectionist farm policies in rich countries...” Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio (Lula) da Silva.

posted June 5, 2008 at 6:35 a.m.

Institutional Investors Discover Agriculture.  If futures market regulators place restrictions on institutional investors, but exempt farmers from these restrictions,  institutional investors buy a farm and become farmers.  More here.

[T]hree institutional investors, including the giant BlackRock fund group in New York, are separately planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in agriculture, chiefly farmland, from sub-Saharan Africa to the English countryside.  “It’s going on big time,” said Brad Cole, president of Cole Partners Asset Management in Chicago, which runs a fund of hedge funds focused on natural resources. “There is considerable interest in what we call ‘owning structure’ — like United States farmland, Argentine farmland, English farmland — wherever the profit picture is improving.”  These new bets by big investors could bolster food production at a time when the world needs more of it.  The investors plan to consolidate small plots of land into more productive large ones, to introduce new technology and to provide capital to modernize and maintain grain elevators and fertilizer supply depots.   But the long-term implications are less clear. Some traditional players in the farm economy, and others who study and shape agriculture policy, say they are concerned these newcomers will focus on profits above all else, and not share the industry’s commitment to farming through good times and bad.  “Farmland can be a bubble just like Florida real estate,” said Jeffrey Hainline, president of Advance Trading, a 28-year-old commodity brokerage firm and consulting service in Bloomington, Ill. “The cycle of getting in and out would be very volatile and disruptive.”  By owning land and other parts of the agricultural business, these new investors are freed from rules aimed at curbing the number of speculative bets that they and other financial investors can make in commodity markets. “I just wonder if they need some sheep’s clothing to put on,” Mr. Hainline said.

posted June 5, 2008 at 6:20 a.m.

Water Shortages in California.  Schwartzenegger threatens rationing.  NYTimes

posted June 5, 2008 at 6:10 a.m.

Water Conservation through Precision Agriculture in Kenya.    “In some areas of Kenya, localised variations in growing conditions can cause severe fluctuations in crop yields. Our ...project is about providing the right information at the right time to farmers.  This means they can use available water more efficiently, minimising wastage and helping to optimise their harvests to feed their families.”  More here.

posted June 5, 2008 at 6 a.m.

The Biological Basis for Altruism.    "The contentious debate about why insects evolved to put the interests of the colony over the individual has been reignited by new research from the University of Leeds, showing that they do so to increase the chances that their genes will be passed on."  More here.

posted June 5, 2008 at 6 a.m.

"Curing" genetic mutations with micronutrients.  A report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is described here.

posted June 5, 2008 at 5:50 a.m.

Mugabe and Food Distribution.  Washington Post editorializes:  "Mugabe turns from beating the people of Zimbabwe to starving them."

posted June 5, 2008 at 5:40 a.m.

Water Shortages in Spain.   Report from the NYTimes.    "[F]armers are fighting developers over water rights. They are fighting one another over who gets to water their crops. And in a sign of their mounting desperation, they are buying and selling water like gold on a rapidly growing black market, mostly from illegal wells."  UPDATE.  "Strawberries v. Golf Courses."

posted June 5 at 5:40 a.m.