Biofuel is just a small part of the story, however. Paul, notably absent from your list of recommendations for dealing with the food shortage is freeing trade. This is understandable, given the emphasis of your book, but liberalizing trade remains one of the best hopes for dealing with the crisis. Export restrictions are a big part of the problem, and the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization has urgently called on nations to drop them.
As George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen has noted, even in the face of increasing rice output and higher prices, the amount of rice traded across borders is expected to decline by 3% this year thanks to export restrictions in India, China, Vietnam and other rice-producing countries. While these nations' policies might seem sensible in the short-term, they prevent rice from being traded to where it is most needed. Along with measures against hoarding, they prevent farmers from getting the price signals that would increase production and reward anticipation of future shortfalls.
These restrictions threaten to keep food prices artificially high instead of encouraging low-cost producers to ramp up production for export. And if you are correct that climate change will increase destructive weather events at the regional level, having a responsive global market will be more vital than ever.
Speculation about the longer term is fraught with peril, and Malthusian doomsayers have racked up a long history of being wrong. That doesn't mean they're mistaken this time, but there's reason for optimism.
Transgenic crops and improved agricultural techniques of the type you mention may yet usher in a second Green Revolution. You may be right that we will need to cut back on our carnivorous tendencies that require such an inefficient transformation of grain into beef. On the other hand, vat-grown meat may end up providing a bounty of inexpensive meat that doesn't waste all those resources on bone and cartilage that real livestock needs to hang its cuts on.
But we don't need to pin our hopes on technological silver bullets.
Our first priority should be to liberalize trade, both at home and abroad, and to improve the institutions in developing countries that prevent them from reaching their full productive potential.
Jacob Grier is a bartender and think tank PR manager. He writes about food and regulation at www.jacobgrier.com.