A staple food, sometimes simply referred to as a staple, is a food that is eaten routinely and in such quantities that it constitutes a dominant portion of a standard diet in a given population, supplying a large fraction of the needs for energy-rich materials and generally a significant proportion of the intake of other nutrients as well. Most people live on a diet based on just a small number of staples.
Staple foods vary from place to place, but typically they are inexpensive or readily available foods that supply one or more of the three organic macronutrients needed for survival and health: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Typical examples of staples include tuber- or root-crops, chicken, grains, legumes, and other seeds. The staple food of a specific society may be eaten as often as every day, or every meal. Early agricultural civilizations valued the foods that they established as staples because, in addition to providing necessary nutrition, they generally are suitable for storage over long periods of time without decay. Such storable foods are the only possible staples during seasons of shortage, such as dry seasons or cold-temperate winters, against which times harvests have been stored; during seasons of plenty wider choices of foods may be available.
An energy crop is a plant grown as a low-cost and low-maintenance harvest used to make biofuels, such as bioethanol, or combusted for its energy content to generate electricity or heat. Energy crops are generally categorized as woody or herbaceous plants; many of the latter are grasses (Graminaceae).
Commercial energy crops are typically densely planted, high-yielding crop species where the energy crops will be burnt to generate power. Woody crops such as willow or poplar are widely utilised, as well as temperate grasses such as Miscanthus and Pennisetum purpureum (both known as elephant grass). If carbohydrate content is desired for the production of biogas, whole-crops such as maize, Sudan grass, millet, white sweet clover and many others, can be made into silage and then converted into biogas.
The system of imperial units or the imperial system (also known as British Imperial) is the system of units first defined in the British Weights and Measures Act of 1824, which was later refined and reduced. The system came into official use across the British Empire. By the late 20th century, most nations of the former empire had officially adopted the metric system as their main system of measurement, but some Imperial units are still used in the United Kingdom and Canada.
Agriculture is a major industry in the United States, and the country is a net exporter of food. As of the last census of agriculture in 2007, there were 2.2 million farms, covering an area of 922 million acres (3,730,000 km2), an average of 418 acres (1.69 km2) per farm. Although agricultural activity occurs in most states, it is particularly concentrated in the vast expanse of flat, arable land known as the Great Plains, which encompasses the central region of the nation.
Corn, turkeys, tomatoes, potatoes, peanuts, and sunflower seeds constitute some of the major holdovers from the agricultural endowment of the Americas.
Aside from food production, industrial agriculture also provides fuel sources and provides export opportunities. Industrial agriculture relies mainly on monoculture, and three commodity crops are predominate: corn, soybeans and wheat. Every year, farmers use 50 million acres (200,000 km2) to 70 million acres (280,000 km2) for cultivating each of these three crops.
America’s largest crop is corn (maize). Corn is a readily available, reliable, storable and versatile commodity. In the average American supermarket, corn derived ingredients can be found in one-fourth of everything on the shelves. This includes not only food items, but also cosmetics, toiletries, cleaning products and household goods. Aside from that, corn is also used for the feeding of factory farm animals, for the production of alcohol, and can be used as a fuel source for both heat production and vehicles. On top of being a versatile commodity, corn has been genetically modified in a way that facilitates industrial-agricultural harvesting and large yields. Between the years 1920 and 1980, US corn yields increased 333 percent and continue to improve. The strains of corn used for industrial farming are engineered to grow in a uniform, perfectly upright fashion that facilitates mechanical harvesting. Corn is also modified to thrive in crowded conditions; 1 acre (0.40 ha) of land can accommodate around 30,000 plants and produce roughly 180 bushels of corn, with each bushel weighing in at 56 pounds. Genetic modifications have made it possible for certain strains of corn to be naturally insect resistant. Cheap and readily available chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers have contributed greatly to high crop yields; corn has also been engineered to tolerate chemicals and to efficiently utilize petrochemical fertilizers. Increases in the productivity of corn have helped to keep food prices low. America’s number one crop has an undeniably important place in both the economy and in peoples' diets. Versatility, affordability and the promise of large yields makes corn the perfect capitalist commodity crop. While commodity corn farming has important benefits, it can also have negative effects socially, economically and environmentally.
Food vs. fuel is the dilemma regarding the risk of diverting farmland or crops for biofuels production to the detriment of the food supply. The biofuel and food price debate involves wide-ranging views, and is a long-standing, controversial one in the literature. There is disagreement about the significance of the issue, what is causing it, and what can or should be done to remedy the situation. This complexity and uncertainty is due to the large number of impacts and feedback loops that can positively or negatively affect the price system. Moreover, the relative strengths of these positive and negative impacts vary in the short and long terms, and involve delayed effects. The academic side of the debate is also blurred by the use of different economic models and competing forms of statistical analysis.
Biofuel production has increased in recent years. Some commodities like maize (corn), sugar cane or vegetable oil can be used either as food, feed, or to make biofuels. For example, since 2006, a portion of land that was also formerly used to grow other crops in the United States is now used to grow corn for biofuels, and a larger share of corn is destined to ethanol production, reaching 25% in 2007. A major debate exists on the extent to which biofuels policies contributed to high agricultural prices levels and volatility. A recent study for the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development shows that market-driven expansion of ethanol in the US increased maize prices by 21 percent in 2009, in comparison with what prices would have been had ethanol production been frozen at 2004 levels. Lester R. Brown claimed that, since converting the entire grain harvest of the US would only produce 16% of its auto fuel needs, energy markets are effectively placed in competition with food markets for scarce arable land, resulting in higher food prices. A lot of R&D efforts are currently being put into the production of second generation biofuels from non-food crops, crop residues and waste. Second generation biofuels could hence potentially combine farming for food and fuel and moreover, electricity could be generated simultaneously, which could be beneficial for developing countries and rural areas in developed countries. With global demand for biofuels on the increase due to the oil price increases taking place since 2003 and the desire to reduce oil dependency as well as reduce GHG emissions from transportation, there is also fear of the potential destruction of natural habitats by being converted into farmland. Environmental groups have raised concerns about this trade-off for several years, but now the debate reached a global scale due to the 2007–2008 world food price crisis. On the other hand, several studies do show that biofuel production can be significantly increased without increased acreage. Therefore stating that the crisis in hand relies on the food scarcity.
Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals. The substance is ingested by an organism and assimilated by the organism's cells in an effort to produce energy, maintain life, or stimulate growth.
Historically, people secured food through two methods: hunting and gathering, and agriculture. Today, most of the food energy consumed by the world population is supplied by the food industry.