Everything is a “Nexus”

Summertime and the food forecasts are queasy. In the drought-hit U.S. the latest USDA projections show corn harvests down 13% and soybeans 12% from 2011; wheat stays about even. Although other world crop areas are not as hard hit, no major area has a big record output. In the meantime, global demand keeps inching up (population).

Rice shortages and spiking energy prices that threatened Asia in 2008 seem unlikely this year. Other than feed grain shortages bumping up meat prices soon, the farm report is cheerfully boring. Famine stalking the earth is put off another year.

But don’t go to sleep. Food is unlikely to become cheaper. Food prices formed a backdrop for Arab Spring testiness. A big political disruption, like an Iran-Israeli war, would not only send energy prices soaring, food prices might soar too. That’s one nexus point (where stuff links together). There are a lot more.

Food, water, energy, and health form a nexus of interrelated factors. Food worriers see the long term curves of food supply and creeping demand closing in on each other. Most figure that a crisis will hit in a weather nexus when several major crop regions have a down year at once.

And more than food quantity is at stake. So is its quality. Even the average Chinese caught up in that country’s rush to modernize seems to be increasingly wary of the adulteration rampant in its industrial food system. If we can muscle up, there is no end of systems in need whole system improvement.

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