martes, abril 29, 2008

Uno largo

Hamas por fin tiene algo de carnaza que poner sobre la mesa, ese Hamas que tanto se preocupa por el bienestar y futuro de los palestinos. Y aquellos que no son capaces de ir mas alla ya estan repitiendo el mantra anti Israel de siempre, tan viejo como cansino como injusto como inutil.

En fin.


Ahora que los precios de los alimentos basico se han disparado se oyen las gilipolleces de siempre sobre la economia de mercado, los pobres, y peor aun se proponene soluciones de esas que nos devolveran a las cavernas.

En este sentido es refrescante leer las ultimas entradas en el blog de Johan Norberg.

This Tuesday I talked about the global food crisis in Studio Ett, a crisis that might result in the first increase in poverty and hunger in several generations. I explained that the dramatic rise in global food prices is not the result of bad harvests. The production was bigger than ever last year, and is projected to break the record again this year. Instead, it is the result of three major developments

- Less poverty, which means that the Chinese and Indians can afford to eat more and especially more meat (and to produce one kilogram of meat, it takes 8 kg of grain).

- The switch to biofuels. Because of subsidies especially in the US ethanol production now take almost five percent of the total global harvest, which is twice the total reduction of stocks this year. And according to the World Bank, the grain needed to fill up an SUV once could feed a person for a year.

- Countries like Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, India and Vietnam respond to the rise in prices with price controls and export barriers which means less incentives for their farmers to grow and invest more, and result in rising prices for the rest of the world.

So what should be done?

In the short term, we should abolish the ethanol subsidies, the price controls and the export barriers (and obviously the food tariffs) to soften the blow. But in the long term we must become better at producing food. There will be another 3 to 4 billion people on the planet in the next decades and they will eat much more per capita than we do today. We need to give farmers ownership to their land so that they can invest, we need to upgrade the entire food infrastructure with transport, communications, agricultural technology, water harvesting etc, and we need GMOs.

But for all of this to happen markets must be opened and rich country subsidies abolished so that farmers in poor countries get economics of scale and prices must be allowed to rise so that investments are encouraged. Any help to poor consumers must come as money or vouchers so that they can buy food, not in attempts to keep prices artificially low.

Y las soluciones casi de ciencia ficcion que ya se barajan:

Meat production is responsible for 18 percent of all greenhouse gases and increases food prices since you need grain to feed the animals. Therefore, Expressen´s Ann-Charlotte Marteus suggests that we should stop eating meat. But there is another way: We can grow meat.

To produce meat today, 75 to 95 percent of what we feed the animal is lost on metabolism and inedible structures, but with in vitro meat production we would only create the meat we eat. And a test tube does not have a digestive system that produces very potent greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide.

A steak is a complex structure, but bioengineers already have the technology to grow hamburgers and sausages. And it´s an efficient way to end cruelty against the animals.

Y tambien

Are you afraid that the world is running out of land for agriculture in the future? Don´t be: we can create land, for example with the new concept of "vertical farms".

Just look at SKYFarm above, proposed for Toronto by the architect Gordon Graff. It is a 58 floor skyscraper with 740,000 square meters of growing space with perfect soil and lightning, protected from disease and bad weather and with no pollution of water sources nearby. One building like that can feed around 35,000 people each year.

Another vertical farm will be finished in Las Vegas in 2010 and in Tokyo they already farm underground.

Y tambien

Skyscarpers are not just good for growing crops. The Netherlands has a big pig industry and is also seeing a growing interest in organic farming. But if purely organic farming methods were introduced and meat consumption stayed at today´s levels, the pig industry would need 75% of the surface area of the Netherlands.

Therefore the architecture office MVRDV proposes "Pig City", several towers, 622 meters high, where the pigs get more space, perfect conditions and big balconies with trees. Not the traditional pigsty...

Todo menos hacer caso a los politicos:

Say what you like about the French and their agricultural protectionism, but they are consistent. In 2003, the French agricultural minister Herve Gaymard defended the CAP by saying that poor countries should not concentrate on large-scale farming and export markets:

" cannot be left to the mercy of market forces"

Today we have a food crisis because poor countries have not been able to develop large-scale farming and export markets, partly because of the CAP. But obviously, the French agricultural minister Michel Barnier explains that the probem is too much markets and too little protectionism.

"What we are now witnessing in the world is the consequence of too much free-market liberalism"