Global Food Production Challenged by Technology, Weather

As technology develops new methods of crop production and preservation, the environment struggles to keep up, from the destruction of the honey bee to the effect of changing weather conditions on crops.

While the wind is responsible for pollinating many crop staples like wheat, corn, and rice, domesticated honey bees are crucial to the pollination and production of nuts, many fruits and vegetables, coffee, and cocoa, among other things. Unfortunately the development of new pesticides causes death and demolition of honey bee populations, which could have untold effects not only on crop production, but also on the price of food.

According to numbers by agri-business lender Rabobank from earlier this year, failure of honey bee colonies to survive the winter in the United States is up to 35%  and up to 20% in Europe from a previous average of 10%. Although there were no reported effects on crop production due to declining bee numbers this year, denying that further measures need to be taken to monitor the effects of pesticides on honey bees could produce devastating results. Countries abroad like Germany, France, and Italy have already taken precautions and banned chemicals known to affect the lifespan of the honey bee, and the United States as well as other countries may learn and benefit from this example.

Despite the declining honey bee population, there are other factors threatening food production. Extreme weather conditions in the last year have caused great damage to corn and soybean crops, which are much more than food sources for humans. Both provide critical components of the processed food industry, a major source of food-driven income, in the form of high fructose corn syrup and soybean oil. Also, they provide feed for animals that produce meat and dairy products for the rest of the food industry. With the availability of such important crops at a low, the cost of production is driven up, which is often handed off to the consumer in the form of higher food prices.

So what can you do to avoid the higher prices? Stick to whole, unprocessed foods for both health and lower prices. When eating out or grocery shopping, look for places that include locally grown and produced ingredients which will give back to the local farmers and eliminate extra costs accrued by long shipping distances.

Despite the threatening conditions, the agri-business industry remains optimistic that new regulations and preventative measures will help to counteract the negative experiences of the past year.