In The Guardian Lester R. Brown tells it like it is. The world is closer to a food crisis than most people realize.
The United States is the leading producer and exporter of corn, the world's feedgrain. At home, corn accounts for four-fifths of the US grain harvest. Internationally, the US corn crop exceeds China's rice and wheat harvests combined. Among the big three grains – corn, wheat, and rice – corn is now the leader, with production well above that of wheat and nearly double that of rice.The drought currently hitting the US has expanded across 64% of the country. Here you can see how the drought is stressing US crops.
While temperature, rainfall, and drought serve as indirect indicators of crop growing conditions, each week the US Department of Agriculture releases a report on the actual state of the corn crop. This year the early reports were promising. On 21 May, 77% of the US corn crop was rated as good to excellent. The following week the share of the crop in this category dropped to 72%. Over the next eight weeks, it dropped to 26%, one of the lowest ratings on record. The other 74% is rated very poor to fair. And the crop is still deteriorating.Over the last few weeks we have seen how extreme weather due to climate change is affecting season stability. But the most insidious visible result has been in the now unpredictability of the growing season. And now with the massive drought which has been magnified due to climate change we are seeing dustbowlification not seen since the 1930's
Not only is the current food situation deteriorating, but so is the global food system itself. We saw early signs of the unraveling in 2008 following an abrupt doubling of world grain prices. As world food prices climbed, exporting countries began restricting grain exports to keep their domestic food prices down. In response, governments of importing countries panicked. Some of them turned to buying or leasing land in other countries on which to produce food for themselves.This is our new reality. And we are ill equipped to deal with it. We must transition to a sustainable agriculture model. In the US and other wealthy countries our factory farm and monolithic crop production can not take us to the new reality that awaits us with climate change. In fact, it is one of the major contributors (pdf) to the climate change and resource issues we have now. We have lost precious time to transition to a plant based, low resource use sustainable agriculture.
Most grain corn also goes to feed livestock. In 2009, American farmers harvested about 13 billion bushels of corn grain. Iowa produced about 19% of the U.S. corn crop - around 2.4 billion bushels. For many years corn use was quite stable, with about 75% going to feed livestock in the US and other countries, 8% going to fuel ethanol, and more than 6% going to sweeteners. Since 2004, however, the portion of the corn crop used for ethanol has more than tripled to 27 to 30 percent in 2009 and 2008 and the portion used directly for feed has dropped to about 40 to 45 percent. A substantial portion of the by-products of ethanol production (distillers’ grains) are fed to livestock, so the corn used for ethanol also contributes to animal feed.http://www.cias.wisc.edu/...