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Posted Sun Mar 6 2011: from
Gloomy Malthus provides food for thought as world's appetite builds
At some point, argued Malthus, the demands of the human race will exceed agricultural capacity, sparking violence, population decline and radical social change. A highbrow version of the man with the "End is Nigh" sandwich board, Malthus banged his "impending catastrophe" drum until his death in 1834 - hence the "dismal" sobriquet.... The United Nations index of global food prices hit yet another record high in February - the eighth successive monthly increase. The respected UN index - which tracks prices of cereals, meat, dairy, oils and sugar - is now up 40 percent on a year ago and 5 percent above its June 2008 peak. The price of corn - a widespread staple crop - is now 95 percent higher than a year ago. While there were many factors behind the outbreak of dissent in Libya, soaring food prices were the catalyst. A wave of price-related resentment has swept across a number of North African nations and could yet cause a political eruption in the Gulf. Since before the days of Malthus, economists have tracked the natural swing and counter-swing of food prices, as production has responded with a lag to price signals and the vagaries of the weather. But maybe Malthus was right and that self-correcting cycle is now over.
[Read more stories about: economic myopia, corporate farming, food crisis, GMOs, tipping point, topsoil depletion, rain forest depletion]

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