Small Farmers Can’t Feed the Planet

Mark Thoma and Alex Tabarrok and Paul Kedrosky all feature a tour de force mini-essay from Paul Collier, who left it as a comment on Martin Wolf’s blog. I’ve been a big fan of Collier for a while, and I do hope he starts blogging in his own right soon, since he’s really great at this sort of thing. The main causes and solutions to the present food crisis, then, through Collier’s eyes:

  • Chinese are eating cows which are eating grain which would otherwise have been eaten by Africa’s poor.
  • Americans are turning grain into ethanol which would otherwise have been eaten by Africa’s poor.
  • Europeans are banning genetically modified crops, which are Africa’s main hope of growing enough grain to feed its own poor.
  • Policymakers everywhere romanticize small farmers, when what the world really needs, if it’s to feed a growing and ever-wealthier population, is Brazil-style high-technology Big Agriculture.

All of this is eminently reasonable, and if food riots achieve anything, it will be by forcing politicians to wake up to these realities and start feeding the hungry rather than pandering to the biofuel/anti-GM/small-farmer lobby. And if you think that "natural farming" or somesuch can replace technology-fueled agribusiness, think again.

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