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Markets vs. Malthus: Food Security and the Global Economy

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  • Cullen S. Hendrix

    (Peterson Institute for International Economics)

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    Abstract

    In the past four years, rising world food prices and the global economic downturn increased the ranks of the world’s food insecure from 848 million to 925 million by September 2010, reversing decades of slow yet steady progress in reducing hunger. While the human costs have been considerable, the political consequences have been significant as well, fueling concerns of two skeptical groups, Neo-Malthusians and food sovereignty advocates. Hendrix assesses the claims of both. On the Neo-Malthusian position, he finds that while population growth and economic development contribute somewhat to price increases, there are few structural, resource-based impediments to increasing aggregate agricultural production. The biggest near-term threats to food security are not dwindling agricultural inputs and agricultural trade, but rather the familiar problems of poverty and political barriers to market access—in particular, the distortions created by agricultural policy in the United States and European Union. A robust trading system is the best way to address current food security problems. In light of forecast changes in global patterns of agricultural productivity, a robust trading system will become even more important to ensuring that a world undergoing climate change will be able to feed itself.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Peterson Institute for International Economics in its series Policy Briefs with number PB11-12.

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    Date of creation: Jul 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:iie:pbrief:pb11-12

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    1. Stephan Haggard & Marcus Noland, 2008. "Famine in North Korea Redux?," Working Paper Series WP08-9, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    2. William R. Cline, 2007. "Global Warming and Agriculture: Impact Estimates by Country," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 4037.
    3. Baffes, John, 2009. "More on the energy / non-energy commodity price link," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4982, The World Bank.
    4. Reed, A. J. & Hanson, Kenneth & Elitzak, Howard & Schluter, Gerald, 1997. "Changing Consumer Food Prices: A User's Guide to ERS Analyses," Technical Bulletins 156805, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    5. Timmer, C. Peter, 2010. "Reflections on food crises past," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 1-11, February.
    6. Mitchell, Donald, 2008. "A note on rising food prices," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4682, The World Bank.
    7. Baffes, John, 2007. "Oil spills on other commodities," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4333, The World Bank.
    8. Ferrucci, Gianluigi & Jiménez-Rodríguez, Rebeca & Onorante, Luca, 2010. "Food price pass-through in the euro area The role of asymmetries and non-linearities," Working Paper Series 1168, European Central Bank.
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