Earth Policy Institute

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  • Can We Prevent A Food Breakdown?

    Can We Prevent A Food Breakdown?

    By Lester R. Brown As food supplies have tightened, a new geopolitics of food has emerged—a world in which the global competition for land and water is intensifying and each country is fending for itself. We cannot claim that we are unaware ...

    Lester R. Brown

  • Can the World Feed China?

    Can the World Feed China?

    By Lester R. Brown Overnight, China has become a leading world grain importer, set to buy a staggering 22 million tons in the 2013–14 trade year, according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture projections. As recently as ...

    Lester R. Brown

  • U.S.-India: Dealing With Monsoon Failure

    U.S.-India: Dealing With Monsoon Failure

    The scene plays out in India. At a reception, I met the head of Indian operations for Esso (now ExxonMobil). When I asked him how business was, he said it was great. In particular, diesel sales to fuel irrigation pumps were nearly double the ...

    Lester R. Brown

  • Many Countries Reaching Diminishing Returns in Fertilizer Use

    Many Countries Reaching Diminishing Returns in Fertilizer Use

    When German chemist Justus von Liebig demonstrated in 1847 that the major nutrients that plants removed from the soil could be applied in mineral form, he set the stage for the development of the fertilizer industry and a huge jump in world food ...

    Lester R. Brown

  • Less Than 3 Percent of Oceans in Marine Parks Despite Recent Growth

    Less Than 3 Percent of Oceans in Marine Parks Despite Recent Growth

    In May 1975, rising concerns about overfishing and deteriorating ocean health prompted scientists and officials from 33 countries to meet in Tokyo for the first global conference on marine parks and reserves. Noting the need for swift action to ...

    J. Matthew Roney

  •  India's Dangerous 'Food Bubble'

    India's Dangerous 'Food Bubble'

    India is now the world's third-largest grain producer after China and the United States. The adoption of higher-yielding crop varieties and the spread of irrigation have led to this remarkable tripling of output since the early 1960s. Unfortunately, ...

    Lester R. Brown

  • Moving Up the Food Chain

    Moving Up the Food Chain

    For most of the time that human beings have walked the earth, we lived as hunter-gatherers. The share of the human diet that came from hunting versus gathering varied with geographic location, hunting skills, and the season of the year. During the ...

    Lester R. Brown

  • Rising Temperature, Rising Food Prices

    Rising Temperature, Rising Food Prices

    Agriculture as it exists today developed over 11,000 years of rather remarkable climate stability. It has evolved to maximize production within that climate system. Now, suddenly, the climate is changing. With each passing year, the agricultural ...

    Lester R. Brown

  • Grain Yields Starting to Plateau

    Grain Yields Starting to Plateau

    By Lester R. Brown From the beginning of agriculture until the mid-twentieth century, growth in the world grain harvest came almost entirely from expanding the cultivated area. Rises in land productivity were too slow to be visible within a single ...

    Lester R. Brown

  • Dozens of U.S. Cities Board the Bike-Sharing Bandwagon

    Dozens of U.S. Cities Board the Bike-Sharing Bandwagon

    When New York City opened registration for its much anticipated public bike-sharing program on April 15, 2013, more than 5,000 people signed up within 30 hours. Eager for access to a fleet of thousands of bicycles, they became Citi Bike members ...

    Janet Larsen

  • Full Planet, Empty Plates: Chapter 2. The Ecology of Population Growth

    Full Planet, Empty Plates: Chapter 2. The Ecology of Population Growth

    Throughout most of human existence, population growth has been so slow as to be imperceptible within a single generation. Reaching a global population of 1 billion in 1804 required the entire time since modern humans appeared on the scene. To add ...

    Lester R. Brown

  • New Era of Food Scarcity Echoes Collapsed Civilizations

    New Era of Food Scarcity Echoes Collapsed Civilizations

    The world is in transition from an era of food abundance to one of scarcity. Over the last decade, world grain reserves have fallen by one third. World food prices have more than doubled, triggering a worldwide land rush and ushering in a new ...

    Lester R. Brown

  • Overfishing Threatens Critical Link in the Food Chain

    Overfishing Threatens Critical Link in the Food Chain

    The fish near the bottom of the aquatic food chain are often overlooked, but they are vital to healthy oceans and estuaries. Collectively known as forage fish, these species—including sardines, anchovies, herrings, and shrimp-like ...

    J. Matthew Roney

  • Global Grain Stocks Drop Dangerously Low as 2012 Consumption Exceeded Production

    Global Grain Stocks Drop Dangerously Low as 2012 Consumption Exceeded Production

    The world produced 2,241 million tons of grain in 2012, down 75 million tons or 3 percent from the 2011 record harvest. The drop was largely because of droughts that devastated several major crops—namely corn in the United States (the ...

    Janet Larsen

  • China’s Rising Soybean Consumption Reshaping Western Agriculture

    China’s Rising Soybean Consumption Reshaping Western Agriculture

    Global demand for soybeans has soared in recent decades, with China leading the race. Nearly 60 percent of all soybeans entering international trade today go to China, making it far and away the world’s largest importer. The soybean was ...

    Lester R. Brown

  • Heat and Drought Ravage U.S. Crop Prospects—Global Stocks Suffer

    Heat and Drought Ravage U.S. Crop Prospects—Global Stocks Suffer

    September estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) show 2012 U.S. corn yields at 123 bushels per acre, down by a fourth from the 2009 high of 165 bushels per acre. Yields are the lowest since 1995 and well below the average of the ...

    Janet Larsen

  • Book Byte: We Can Reforest the Earth

    Book Byte: We Can Reforest the Earth

    Protecting the 10 billion acres of remaining forests on earth and replanting many of those already lost are both essential for restoring the earth’s health. Since 2000, the earth’s forest cover has shrunk by 13 million acres each year, ...

    Lester R. Brown

  • Data Highlight: Arab Grain Imports Rising Rapidly

    Data Highlight: Arab Grain Imports Rising Rapidly

    The Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa make up only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they take in more than 20 percent of the world’s grain exports. Imports to the region have jumped from 30 million tons of grain ...

    Sara Rasmussen

  • Bumper 2011 Grain Harvest Fails to Rebuild Global Stocks

    Bumper 2011 Grain Harvest Fails to Rebuild Global Stocks

    The world’s farmers produced more grain in 2011 than ever before. Estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show the global grain harvest coming in at 2,295 million tons, up 53 million tons from the previous record in 2009. ...

    Janet Larsen

  • Rising Meat Consumption Takes Big Bite out of Grain Harvest

    Rising Meat Consumption Takes Big Bite out of Grain Harvest

    http://www.earth-policy.org/data_highlights/2011/highlights22 World consumption of animal protein is everywhere on the rise. Meat consumption increased from 44 million tons in 1950 to 284 million tons in 2009, more than doubling annual consumption ...

    Earth Policy Institute