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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Encouraging Eco-Friendliess (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Encouraging Eco-Friendliess
Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
I don't remember making in comment either for or against US subsidizing food or farming. My comment was about the wisdom of using food to make plastic.

I don't really see a difference in this context.

There's a price for corn in the developing world, people have been complaining for a long time that the US due to food subsidies has been dumping corn in the developing world, and thus lowering the cost for corn in those areas to the extent that it is difficult to impossible for local farmers to make a living by growing food for local consumption, let alone export it to the States like they probably should in an ideal case. (As described above)

Effectively, by diverting some of the corn in the US to things like packaging, the price of corn should go up. This is the same as if the US cut back on dumping corn, but the US remains a net exporter of corn.

So it seems to me that's the only real effect of cutting back on corn-based packaging in terms of food, the price would simply go down a bit.

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
It's also important to recognize that even if the recent revolutions in the middle east do lead to greater liberty and prosperity for people in the region, it does not necessarily follow that people rioting because they can't afford to eat is not a problem.

Ugh. You're right about the previous timing.

But I think this is more of the main point, food riots are "a" problem, but I'm not necessarily convinced that it's at the root, a food pricing problem. I guess I'll wait to see why (or if) you think it's a pricing issue or not.

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The Rabbit
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It's way more complicated than that Mucus. There are a variety of factors that have lead to concentration of world food production in a relatively small number of countries. These include, but are not limited to, farm subsidies in the highly developed countries and WTO agreements. The combination has devastated local agriculture in much of the world which makes developing countries more subject to global stresses.

On top of that, we have an increased demand for agricultural crops to be used to make things like plastics and fuel which has consumed the buffer in the system. The combination of these things means it now only takes a crop failure in one place on the globe to precipitate a global food crisis that leads to sudden increases in food prices. Once local farms have shut down because the US has been dumping cheap food on the market, they can't instantly start up again when there is a drought in Australia or Cargill opens a new biofuels plant. The damage done by dumping cheap food has already happened. Its not easily or quickly reversible.

It's a classic monopoly situation. Once the big boys have driven all the little players out of business by dropping prices, those little guys can't quickly jump back in the game when prices go through the roof. The result is that farm subsidies and demand for crops for non-food products have weighed in on the same side of the scale, not opposite sides.

I probably didn't explain that very well. I'll have to see if I can find any good sources that do a better job.

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Mucus
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That's fine, I think we're basically agreed on the factors in the situation up until paragraph three.

It seems to me that there are two solutions. One is to try to dampen the swings in the US food supply by removing biofuels and the like from the equation. The other is to encourage local production, growth in incomes, and encourage better governance.

It's true that the latter won't be easy or quick, but I still find it better than the former which also wouldn't be quick. Winding down subsidies and either a consumer-led boycott of packaging or a legislative approach seems fairly difficult in these deadlocked times.

US production also isn't going to be a long term solution as China is going to increasingly outright purchase corn from the US, dumped or not.

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ElJay
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quote:
Originally posted by Aros:

- Petroleum will be consumed until it becomes too costly to consume anymore. Using it in applications that don't create particulates is preferable to that same petroleum being used in cars. Use paper = more available petroleum = lower prices = more petroleum purchased and burned. Basic micro, really.

This isn't actually true. The parts of crude used to produce gas and plastic are different. They're separated in the refining process. Not using plastic doesn't change the amount of fuel available.
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