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Author Topic: Should we build an international food reserve?  (Read 3217 times)

Offline CliffordK

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Should we build an international food reserve?
« on: 21/12/2012 11:18:10 »
Should we build an international food reserve?

It is not clear what our current reserves are, but a year's crop failures would be devastating to humanity.  A couple of years crop failures could destroy much of humanity. 

Possible?

Nuclear Winter?
Asteroid Impact?
Super volcano?
Pestilence?

Issues would include space, decay, pests, energy to preserve the food.  And, of course, access in an emergency.

One option might be to ship 1% of our wheat, rice, grains, nuts, perhaps dried fruits and vegetables to central Antarctica.  Access might be a problem, but possible in an emergency, especially if one invests in two-way shipping infrastructure, and if the "disaster" was primarily food/crops.  In Antarctica, non-perishables (or MRE's) could be stored reasonably pest-free, and decay-free, probably for decades. 


 

Offline RD

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Re: Should we build an international food reserve?
« Reply #1 on: 21/12/2012 14:08:22 »
There are seed banks ... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svalbard_Global_Seed_Vault
                                     
but they are for plant gene conservation, not a larder.
« Last Edit: 21/12/2012 14:13:11 by RD »
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Should we build an international food reserve?
« Reply #2 on: 21/12/2012 15:35:55 »
While it may seem a good idea on the surface, I think it would create insurmountable problems.

Who foots the bill for construction and day to day running of the facility? Who gets a share of the food when needed and who decides whether to release some of the storage? Who pays for the transport? Some will argue that some parts of the world need that grain today, so why are you putting it into storage? What effect would storage have on food prices? Where would the profits go?

Say the USA produces a 900,000 ton surplus of wheat for the store in 2013. This suplus would mean wheat prices would be low. But in 2016, the US crop is a disaster, leaving a shortfall of 500,000 tons for the domestic requirement. At such a time, wheat prices would be high. Releasing 500,000 tons from the store would push prices back down and farmers would suffer a great loss of income, perhaps resulting in their inability to afford seed for next year's crop. Alternatively, fix the wheat price at the higher rate and then who pockets the massive profit on selling cheap bought wheat at inflated prices?

Just suppose that at the same time, Europe suffers a disasterous wheat crop leading to a worldwide shortage of wheat to the tune of 2m tons, while the store has only 1.5m tons. Who decides who gets how much?

Nation X didn't put in any wheat, so they can't have any. But they did put in 100,000 tons of barley!!!

What good is barley for making bread? What use is wheat for making stout?

Hold on........... What burk put in 20,000 tons of vine leaves? "Eh, ustedes...... yo esta no 'burk', los domaldes son un especial de la casa Greco. Soy el mas hermosa. Gringo!"

By jove, my French is improving.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Should we build an international food reserve?
« Reply #3 on: 21/12/2012 17:35:23 »
Yes, there are seed banks, but presumably not enough to plant global crops, but just to restart, perhaps rebuild over a period of several years.

I'm suggesting that if there was a global disaster causing a critical food shortage, in which a large portion of the global population was at risk of starvation, we would have a buffer.  Stashing it away in a place where it might take months to acquire, and it would take some planing ahead.  But, it would be there, assuming the infrastructure remained to go get it.

Sometime, probably in the next 100,000 years, Yellowstone will erupt again, not only causing devastation across the USA, but a global food crisis.  It could happen next year, or many centuries in the future, but barring some new anti-eruption breakthrough, it will happen someday.  Likewise, Iceland could have a large eruption causing more problems than a few grounded airplanes.  And, of course, there is always the risk of largescale meteor impacts.  Or, heaven forbid, thermonuclear war.

Using it to level out prices, or to save from starvation?  Again, that would be determined in part by the access to the food bank. 

If wheat is $300 per ton.  But, it costs $1000 to put it in store, and remove it from the food bank, then it would be unlikely to be used if the cost of the commodity spiked to $500 per ton (although there may be some benefit of diluting the supply with more expensive wheat). 

However, if we put in, say 1% of our crops into the food bank, it would still take a century to get adequate supplies built up to replace global food requirements for a year.  Perhaps lasting a bit more with extreme rationing.  And, if the goal was to build up a couple of years worth of reserves, then one wouldn't want to withdraw until there was a critical need.

One of the few places where one might count on reasonably palatable food stores lasting for a century or so might be Antarctica.

Putting the "bank" in international territory would, of course, leave the bank open to theft unless it was militarized, causing issues of its own including how the occupying force would respond during a disaster.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Should we build an international food reserve?
« Reply #4 on: 22/12/2012 02:50:26 »
I suppose that with many things, some kind of calamity is inevitable.  But, we don't know if it will be in 1 year, 10 years, 100 years, 1000 years, etc. 

If we knew that a supervolcano eruption, or a large asteroid impact was to occur in a decade, then we could begin planning for these events now.

An asteroid defense net could cost in the billions or trillions of dollars to construct, and could be obsolete before fully deployed.  And, if the next major asteroid impact will be in 1000 years (plus a few smaller impacts), then it would be an awful long time to build, maintain, and rebuild a defense system.  Of course, even a moderate impact in a major city could be bad, but most of the Earth isn't covered by cities.

Yet, if we don't plan ahead, we will be caught off guard.
 

Offline Don_1

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Re: Should we build an international food reserve?
« Reply #5 on: 22/12/2012 14:27:23 »

Yet, if we don't plan ahead, we will be caught off guard.

Cruel, harsh, inhuman and certainly not in the spirit of the season? Yes, I am going to be.

Perhaps left to our own devices in the aftermath of an apocolyptic event, with nothing but our sense and physical ability to fall back on, only the fit will survive and the human race be the better for it.

When $1b can't buy a loaf of bread, because there is no bread, the bankers and speculators will die out. It will be small groups living outside of the town & city life which will be best placed to survive and pass on the lesson.

Happy Christmas.......
 

Offline evan_au

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Re: Should we build an international food reserve?
« Reply #6 on: 26/12/2012 08:01:54 »
Plant diseases, pests, drought, habitat destruction and warfare mean that there is sometimes a narrow gap between food production and consumption.

Most current crop failures are regional, so we can achieve part of the benefits of a food bank by shipping grain from a region with good crops directly to a region suffering a drought. This saves the cost of shipping it to an inaccessible place like Antarctica and back again.

This wouldn't help us if crop failures were global in extent (eg supervolcano or large meteorite impact).

The relative isolation of atmospheric circulation in Northern and Southern hemispheres provides some protection from a single event affecting global crops, as does the 6-month gap between harvests in the two hemispheres.

Poverty remains a significant barrier to equitable distribution, and wealth remains a significant barrier to sensible consumption.
 

Offline Airthumbs

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Re: Should we build an international food reserve?
« Reply #7 on: 27/01/2013 00:24:03 »
I think this is an excellent idea.  I think we need more projects all nations can get involved with for humanitarian purposes at all levels. I believe there are already "food banks" but these are tiny in comparison and are used for emergency aid in natural disasters. 

Large scale disasters, presently would be catastrophic for survivors, as is shown throughout geological history, not just for humans but for all species that ever existed, in regard to food production, availability of calorific intake, and catastrophic environmental changes.

We know there are threats to our survival. If we are unfortunate enough to live at a time when one of these extremely rare events occur then we would have to start all over again or get wiped out. The more we advance in our understanding of the Earth and the Cosmos the more possible threats we discover. 

Not to plan for an event like this would be ignoring the fact and at some point if we don't want to keep going through this cycle and give our species a real chance then maybe we should have an International food reserve. 
« Last Edit: 27/01/2013 00:26:39 by Airthumbs »
 

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Re: Should we build an international food reserve?
« Reply #7 on: 27/01/2013 00:24:03 »

 

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