We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Oil, Global Warming and the Food Crisis

The whole doc is available only for registered users
  • Pages: 12
  • Word count: 2857
  • Category: Oil

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now
  1. Introduction

         The world is facing a global food crisis and different government and humanitarian associations are trying to put an end to the worsening problem which has once again caused the resurgence of global hunger. Increases in food prices may be attributable to many different factors such as the unstoppable escalating prices of oil as well as the abnormal weather conditions brought about by climate change. Oil has very much affected food production since it is essential for fertilizers and shipping crops and food transport is reliant on transportation which is dependent on oil. Steep oil prices have increased the cost of moving goods from production to processing and ultimately to the market.

  1. Overview of the Issue

         Food prices have risen to a level that many of the poor cannot afford even a staple diet. The World Bank indicates that food prices have increased by as much as 75 percent since 2000 while the price of wheat has doubled. The price of rice on the other hand has almost doubled (de Silva, 2008).

         The major cause of the food crisis is the blatant increase in oil prices which has elevated fertilizer prices as well as the cost of shipping goods. Climate change has also been a factor as abnormal weather conditions have been affecting the harvest. The call of the United States government to produce more biofuels has also affected food supply as huge amount of grains are now being diverted to the production of ethanol (Vivienne, 2008).

III. The Effects

         The global food crisis has resulted in riots over food in different countries which even left people dead in some incidents. According to International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) director-general Joachim von Braun, the food crisis has become a security issue as well since people who have nothing to eat go on a rampage. The institute is being haunted by calls from different government leaders querying until when the food crisis will last and according to food analysts, food prices will remain high for at least a decade due to the increasing number of people buying food especially from the developing countries such as China and India wherein many people have stopped growing their own food because of having the capacity to buy (de Silva, 2008).

         According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) head Jacques Diouf, the combined increase in oil and food prices translates to a very serious social crisis. The UN indicated that the crisis may be blamed on record oil prices and US farmers switching to biofuel crops, extreme weather conditions and increased food demands from the developing countries (Vidal, 2007).

         The rapid increase in the price of food will worsen the prevalence of malnutrition everywhere. It may be expected in the next few months that the basic diet will consist of cheaper food which have poorer nutrient contents. Changes in dietary patters as a result of escalating food prices may affect the growth of infants, young children, children and adolescents which are the crucial periods of growth. Likewise, the health of adults and the elderly may also be affected. This would result in a higher child morbidity and mortality rate and even maternal mortality. In the long run, it will result in reduced human potential since mental development and learning ability would be affected by insufficient nutrition. It is also likely that work productivity would be reduced. An increased prevalence of chronic diseases may also manifest as well as poor reproductive performance. Fewer numbers of meals and higher poverty rate may also be expected from a lot of people especially those that live on urban areas that rely on food imports. The crisis in food prices has slowed down poverty recovery by as much as seven years and this can be stopped by putting more attention on the health and nutritional needs of the population (WHO, 2008).

  1. The Causes

         According to John Johnston, chief strategist of The Harbour Group, there are numerous reasons why food prices are continuing to rise enumerating biofuel production, higher demand from developing countries, food export hoardings, oil prices, transportation cost, fertilizer cost, climate change, urbanization. However, Johnston said that it should not be referred to as a food crisis because even as prices of food have increased by 52 percent for this decade it has actually gone below 1947 levels if it would be adjusted to US wage levels. Ronn Bonnet, the second vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, explained that what happened is a price adjustment and not a food crisis (The Canadian Press). This argument is however does not pertain to the global food crisis but only to US food scenario as some countries have not experienced dramatic changes in its wage rates like the US.

  1. A. Oil and Biofuels

         Oil price is a huge factor contributing to the food crisis. Particularly, higher oil prices translate to increase cost of tractor fuel and other farm equipment as well as more expensive farm chemicals including fertilizers. The increase in the price of oil is a major factor in this issue since oil price has reached record prices and still continues to rise. Higher oil prices also mean higher cost of transport to and from the farm. An indirect consequence of the oil problem is the diversion of food to fuel. The increased demand for biofuels results in farmlands producing fuel and not food which increases food prices. The degradation or loss of basic natural resources is also another factor which affects food prices. Such natural resources include fertile soil and fresh water (Heinberg, 2007).

         In an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions and eliminate the United States’ dependence on foreign oil, the US began diverting their crops to ethanol production. The White House and the Congress is showing that it plans to produce more ethanol for the coming years even as a void in the food production has been evident. Almost 20 percent of the United State’s maize production is being used to produce ethanol and 70 percent of the world’s maize exports come from the US. As the crop is being diverted to producing ethanol, people who rely on maize exports for food or animal feed feel the void caused by the diversion of food to fuel. Another problem is that farmers are switching to crops that are used for making ethanol and sell it to biofuel plants instead of shipping it to supermarkets since they can get more income from biofuel plants. In 2006, farmers produced 14 million tons of maize for the production of ethanol alone which means a loss of millions of hectares of land which could have otherwise been used to produce food. To make the situation worse, other countries like Britain are also considering increasing their biofuel production and import to control greenhouse gas emissions which could worsen the food crisis (Heinberg, 2007).

         India also plans to allot 14 million hectares of its land for the production of biofuel while Brazil plans to allot 120 million hectares and Africa will devote 400 million hectares for ethanol crops. The land that would be diverted is previously uncultivated land but the negative side is people will be forced of the land (Heinberg, 2007) but even if most of the land that would be used is unproductive some part of it is being used for food production. Also, instead of devoting the land for fossil, the land may be used for the production of more crops which could help alleviate the food crisis. Mankind is having a hard time addressing two issues which are global warming and the food crisis. Ethanol from corn may not be the answer to the problem since it has a negative effect on food production, if ethanol is to be patronized, cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass and other plants that are not edible would be a better alternative since it would not mean diverting food to fuel (Lubber, 2007).

  1. B. Climate Change

         Yet another factor is climate change which also rises because of the use of fossil fuels that produce greenhouse gas emissions (Heinberg, 2007). Global warming has resulted in the melting of the ice caps, droughts and floods which severely affects agriculture and fisheries. Data from the UN indicate that fertile soil the size of Ukraine is being lost annually because of droughts, deforestation and climate change (de Silva, 2008).

         The hard thing about global warming is that it does not only mean an increase in temperature by a degree or two, it also translates to “climate chaos” which are droughts, floods and all sorts of storms. Since farmers depend on consistent seasonal patterns, climate shift may mean that a farmer cannot grow a certain crop for a certain region. One strong storm could affect the whole year’s production of one crop. According to the UN World Food Program, 57 countries have been hit by catastrophic flood and crop harvests have been gravely affected. These 57 countries make up of 29 countries from Africa, 19 from Asia and 9 from Latin America. Crop harvests have also been affected by droughts and heat waves in all almost all parts of the world. Soil erosion and water shortages are other factors that affect crop harvest. It may be observed that these factors are all intertwined (Heinberg, 2007).

         The IFPRI and the FAO, upon investigation and analysis came up with the same answer that oil prices, climate change and increased food demands from developing countries as the top reasons for the global food crisis. Violent riots have resulted because of the demand for food while the WHO is showing great concern about the effects of the food crisis on the nutrition intake of people especially for children in their crucial age of growth.

  1. Looking for Solutions

         Many countries have been looking for ways to combat the food crisis. The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) wants to make use of a regional approach in findings solutions to the food crisis. The ECCAS is seeking ways to control and limit the effects of the crisis such as conflicts over food since Africa is one part of the world which is hit hardly by the food crisis. The ECCAS is seeking for ways that would allow different governments from the sub-region to devise similar common strategies to combat the crisis (Xinhua News Agency, 2008).

         Qatar has also urged other countries to help find a solution to the global food crisis while strengthening ties with the developing countries which also felt the negative impacts of decreased food supply and increased food prices. Tariq Ali Faraj Al Ansari, a First Secretary at Doha’s UN mission, said that rising food prices may be identified as having reached “emergency proportions” and only “radical solutions” can counter this problem. It was debated in the United Nations’ headquarters in New York whether cutting subsidies and removing trade barriers would result in increased food production to help one million small-scale farmers in Africa. Just like other organizations, Al Ansari also referred to oil prices and climate change as the main factors that contributed to the global food crisis as well international trade restrictions (Reinl, 2008).

         FAO regional chief Dr. Kayan Jaff gave a warning that only huge investments in agriculture amounting to billions of dollars will solve rising prices in supermarkets. Such investments are buying farmlands in Africa and in Asia which is why the FAO is taking initiatives and urging the GGC to invest in such projects. It is expected that these movements will be able to bring down rising supermarket prices that would reduce the population’s spending on food (Reinl, 2008).

         The World Health Organization (WHO) on the other hand considers three factors when dealing with the food crisis which are (1) the effects of the food crisis on nutrition, health and poverty, (2) which countries are most vulnerable to the crisis, and (3) and providing better support for those groups who are most vulnerable to the crisis. After the analysis, the WHO formulates a consolidated response that would address the three considerations (WHO, 2008).

         The WHO will undertake certain actions that would help limit the negative effects brought about by the crisis. It will initially help by monitoring the health and nutritional status of those countries that are most vulnerable to the effects of rising food prices. It has already started efforts that would help monitor the identified indicators in 21 countries that were recognized most vulnerable. It also helps countries improve access to nutrition as well as helping them implement national nutrition policies. The organization also helps to identify more population groups that are vulnerable to the global problem and also conducting research to identify other negative effects of the crisis on health and nutrition. It has also formed a task force that would focus on such problems (WHO, 2008).

         US President George W. Bush has initiated providing additional funding in order to help other countries cope with the food crisis. However, such an action will only provide temporary relief since food prices still remain high. One problem with the US is that grains that are being given as donations to other countries still have to travel a long way which incurs transportation costs since the US law requires that food donations should be bought from US producers. The situation would be easier if the food will be bought from a country near the country where the goods will be forwarded to. For example, donations to an African country may be bought from a nearby African country so that shipment would not be that hard (Washington Post, 2008).


         The food crisis has brought about many negative effects such as violent riots caused by food shortage. Other concerns are the effects that the food crisis will have on children’s nutrition intake as families switch to cheaper meals which are also unhealthy. Aside from the children, adults and the elderly people will also be extremely affected by the crisis. The rising food prices may be traced from the rising prices of oil since oil is crucial in the production of fertilizer as well as being the fuel used for many farming equipment. It contributes to rising food prices because as transportation costs becomes more expensive with rising oil prices, shipping good from its place of production to the market would also cost more. Moreover, a void has been created in the food supply as more and more grains are being diverted to making biofuels to eliminate dependence on foreign oil and to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate change is another concern that affects food production since it causes abnormal weather conditions which then affects the harvest rate of farmers. Oil prices and climate change are two of the most influential factors affecting and worsening the food crisis. People need not divert corn and other grains in the production of biofuels just to eliminate dependence on fossil fuels and to curb the effects of global warming since non-edible plant matter can be used to make biofuels. Other actions can also be taken to limit greenhouse gas emissions in a hope to stop global warming. International organizations and developed countries must make an effort to help those poorer countries that are extremely affected by the food crisis. Providing additional funding would be good but it is only a temporary solution, what needs to be done is to eliminate the dependence on oil so that food prices could be controlled. However, eliminating oil production should not be done by producing more biofuels since biofuels create a void in the food supply.


de Silva, Jayatilleke. 25 July 2008. Food Crisis: Man Made not Natural. Daily News. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from http://www.dailynews.lk/2008/07/25/fea02.asp

Walt, Vivienne. 27 February 2008. The World’s Growing Food-Price Crisis. Time Magazine, Retrieved July 27, 2008, from http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1717572,00.html

Vidal, John. 3 November 2007. Global food crisis looms as climate change and fuel shortages bite. The Guardian. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/nov/03/food.climatechange

World Health Organization. 23 July 2008. WHO and the global food security crisis. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/EGUA-7GTLEP?OpenDocument

Food prices escalating but experts advise caution in labeling trend a crisis. The Canadian Press. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from http://canadianpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5iSN4HNwzTaO26TBT5THtjA-zF9gw

Heinberg, Richard. 22 November 2007. What Will We Eat as the Oil Runs Out. Global Public Media. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from http://globalpublicmedia.com/richard_heinbergs_museletter_what_will_we_eat_as_the_oil_runs_out

Lubber, Mindy. 28 November 2007. Corn Ethanol and the Great Dust Bowl. World Changing. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from http://www.worldchanging.com/archives//007637.html

Xinhua News Agency. 24 July 2008 Central Africa Seeks Common Strategy in Tackling Food Crisis.  Retrieved July 27, 2008, from http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/rwb.nsf/db900SID/AMMF-7GUJ8K?OpenDocument

Reinl, James. 25 July 2008. Qatar seeks solution to food crisis. The Peninsula. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/Display_news.asp?section=World_News&subsection=Rest+of+the+World&month=July2008&file=World_News2008072522845.xml

Washington Post. 14 March 2008. Food Crisis. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/13/AR2008031303347.html

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59