Sunday, February 27, 2011

Limits to Growth

At least since Malthus we've been worrying about whether future generations will have enough to eat, and this year is no exception. The Economist has weighed in with its set of information and predictions, concluding as usual that we are all doomed.

While I don't doubt that demand will increase both due to expanding populations and due to increased demand for biofuels, I wonder more about other pressures on the land. If demand grows at a faster rate than supply, prices will go up. That will mean that people are tempted to bring new land under cultivation. It will also mean that people are tempted to use other inputs more effectively to get the most out of their land. That might sound benign, but it might mean that organic agriculture is no longer feasible, or that a larger share of our labor force is once again called to contribute to agriculture. The fallout of increasing food prices could be considerable: it's once again an interesting time to be an economist!

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