Seventy-four days. That is all that stands between mankind and starvation—the length of time the world’s food reserves would feed humanity before disappearing. From 1986 to 2001, the world held an average of 107 days’ worth of grain in storage. But from 2002 to 2011, the average dropped to just 74. Not even three months’ worth!

Shrinking levels of surplus food supplies are signaling that the future of food may not be as secure as most think. The Guardian quoted Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of Full Planet, Empty Plates: “Ever since agriculture began, carry-over stocks of grain have been the most basic indicator of food security.”

If mankind missed one harvest, it would begin to starve.

New Gold

The Guardian summarized Mr. Brown’s Empty Planet, Empty Plates, in which he predicted “ever increasing food prices, leading to political instability, spreading hunger and, unless governments act, a catastrophic breakdown in food.”

Excerpting the book, the newspaper stated: “Food is the new oil and land is the new gold…We saw early signs of the food system unravelling in 2008 following an abrupt doubling of world grain prices. As they climbed, exporting countries [such as Russia] began restricting exports to keep their domestic prices down. In response, importing countries panicked and turned to buying or leasing land in other countries to produce food for themselves.”

Mr. Brown continued, “The result is that a new geopolitics of food has emerged, where the competition for land and water is intensifying and each country is fending for itself.”

As food becomes more precious, prices will rise. An article from The Telegraph reported, “The storm is coming. One of the great dependables of modern life—cheap food—may be about to disappear. If a growing number of economists and scientists are to be believed, we are witnessing a historic transition: from an era when the basics of life have been getting ever more affordable, to a new period when they are ever more expensive.

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