February 16, 2013

Global Food Economics

Posted in Punk Economics · 10 comments ·
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My latest Punk Economics video takes some altitude and looks at the global food economy: where it is now, how we got here – and what we might see in the future. This is vital stuff for all of us – take a look and let me know what you think!


  1. [...] Punk Economics – Global Economics (David McWilliams.com) [...]

  2. Another very interesting graphically illustrated journey through a possible world crisis of the medium term future. It is certainly food for thought David. So, how can the world fend it off? One child policy like China’s for all nations? Acceleration in space travel development so humanity can move off this planet and ease population drag? Get all the market speculators into gambling rehab programs and when treated give them work experience on farms? If your vision pans out we may be heading for the biggest business opportunity the world has ever had in supplying allotments. There will not be a blade of grass to be seen in any garden anywhere. It will be veg all the way and why not.

    In the mean time, I will continue to “hold on to my seat”.

    By the way, I am enjoying your current book: The Good Room and it was nice to have met you at Kilkenomics 2012.

    Cheers.

  3. pablos

    That seems to be the way its going, already news reports in Germany announcing large increases in electricity and food prices for 2013. I was very interested in a recent Economist article about the return of crop rust which is especially putting the gains of the past 50 years at risk and affecting the poorer nations in particular. The video is excellent.

  4. Kof

    On the ball (as usual) Mr Mac.

    The writing is on the wall, but it will require a crash before anything meaningful occurs. We really are lemmings.

    You didn’t mention global warming in relation to food production, which I think is going to impact the amount of arible land and increase the amount of “freak” events, which will cause much greater volatility in crops yields. But I’d imagine that wasn’t an oversight, more a case of you trying not to over complicate the message.

    Keep up the good work!

  5. Taimi

    Excellent overview. But i was moved to register and comment by the statement that Ireland didn’t have enough food to feed the population during the Famine.
    It’s a well-trotted out fact that Ireland exported food during the Famine.
    It was only an ecological disaster if empires, landlords, religious bigots and trade restrictions are regarded as forces of nature.

  6. Eoghan

    The application of existing technologies may be sufficient to provide meet increasing demand and decreased resource inputs. For example, a significant proportion of food along Indian supply chains (farm to fork) is wasted; refrigeration would reduce this significantly. Advanced breeding techniques are producing plants and animals with higher yeilds; for example, milk production is increasing by approximately 4% per animal every year, animal cloning can improve feed conversion ratios in a fraction of the time of traditional breeding practices.

    Increasing prices may send the signal necessary to encourage the use of existing technologies, reducing the impact of the pressures identified in the video.

  7. jerry ocallaghan

    Hi David and greetings from Brazil which you mention “en passat” in your video. Coincidentally, I am Irish and am a Director of the largest meat producer globally, JBS. Although we have operations in Australia, we are originally Brazilian and most of our growth comes from our operations in South America. There are a myriad of aspects related to food and especially meat production which are still being developed in South America. Just as an example, Brazil has more than double the US cattle herd but produces only 80% of the beef the US produces. Chicken production here has such a long way to grow although Brazil exports more than one third of all chicken meat traded globally. According to official statistics, there are more than 100 million hectares of arable land idle and ready to use in Brazil and we havent even thought about productivity yet. Anyway, if you do come to this neck of the woods, i would love to meet up and play a bit of the devils advocate, if you dont mind. My email: jerry@jbs.com.br. Congratulations on the content of your presentations and on the very creative manner in which you communicate.

  8. Kenny Macleod

    Given that meat consumption/production ticks all the wrong boxes regarding ethics, morality, economics, energy, water & land usage, shouldn’t we (inc governments) be encouraging a steady move towards vegetarianism? [didn't know where to fit irresponsible use of antibiotics into that list]

    Technology may keep at least the rich parts of the world in meat for the next fifty years or so, but if this involves livestock it can only accelerate the reduction in natural biodiversity that we are already seeing. Unless we believe in (desire?) a world populated only by humans and sheds/abattoirs chock-a-block with cattle, pigs, sheep awash in a sea of chickens, this has to be as much a dead-end street for homo sapiens as it is for the livestock.

    As you say in another video, we’re generally irrational, but that’s what we have governments & organisations for – to encourage and steer (pardon me) us in the right (or at least better) direction.

    I’ve seen articles on lab produced meat (well, muscle/tissue) which increases the efficiency of meat production in terms of energy and water consumption, doesn’t require the dumping of vast quantities of antibiotics into the environment and has the ethical bonus of not mandating the slaughter of animals (obviously this same process has medicinal potential too). I, as a two-year-and-a-bit vegetarian, would have no problem eating lab-meat should I find I wanted to.

    But, when all is said and done, the vegetarian route is available now and although this too would have an effect on the environment it would have much less damaging consequences for the planet upon which we ultimately depend.

    And if I can use the word “ultimately” so soon after I last used it, ultimately we’ve got to break out from the bounds of this planet and into the solar system.

    Otherwise, honestly, what’s the point guys? After some selfish bugger has gobbled the last Dandelion we’ll be back to cannibalism – the Crematorium will be replaced by a large microwave: the pinnacle of recycling will have been achieved :-)

  9. projectallende

    As an Irish economist living in Argentina I have shared this video with a few contacts here. It is one of the richest that I have watched in the series. Well done!

    I don’t suppose anyone translated it for subtitles in Spanish?

    Tony Phillips
    Ed. Europe on the Brink

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