A new report from Oxfam is warning that food prices are on their way to doubling in the next two decades. The report, “Growing a Better Future: Food Justice in a Resource Constrained World” states that we may see a 120-180% by 2030 and that the world’s agricultural system is fundamentally “broken”. The report talks about climate change, the plight of small farmers and poor consumers. An average Indian consumer spends twice the fraction of their income on food of an average first-world citizen, and a consumer spends four times – about 80%.

None of this should come as a surprise to people familiar with food issues, but the fact that it’s coming from a major charity like Oxfam should at least get some attention. With gains in agricultural yields falling since 1990, the “Green Revolution” is now being recognized for what it was: a big but ultimately short-lived boost in productivity bought at the price of enormous amounts of land, water and chemicals. As pesticides and fertilizers continue to “lose ground” (literally..) in the war against soil depletion, the world is fast learning that petrochemicals can’t solve biological problems.

With a global market for food, everyone is connected. When food becomes scarce enough anywhere, prices rise everywhere. Add to this the effects of first-world farm subsidies which flood developing nations with cheap imports, and the effect of the new global biofuels market, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. This isn’t some apocalyptic theory – there are already millions of people dying from hunger. What’s at stake is that many more will join them.

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