Last week, The Economist Magazine published an extensive series of articles with the summary title of “The 9-billion people question: A special report on feeding the world.” The articles examine what is going to be required to feed more than two billion additional people by 2050.
A few selected quotes from the report’s introduction:
• “At the start of 2011 the food industry is in crisis. World food prices have risen above the peak they reached in early 2008.”
• “The end of the era of cheap food has coincided with growing concern about the prospects of feeding the world. Around the turn of 2011-12 the global population is forecast to rise to 7 billion, stirring Malthusian fears. The price rises have once again plunged into poverty millions of people who spend more than half their income on food.”
• “Because food is so important, agriculture—more than any other form of economic activity—is expected to achieve a series of competing and overlapping goals that change over time and from place to place. The world looks to farmers to do more than just produce food. Agriculture is also central to reducing hunger (which is not quite the same thing) and provides many people’s main route out of poverty.”
• “It (this report) points out that although the concerns of the critics of modern agriculture may be understandable, the reaction against intensive farming is a luxury of the rich. Traditional and organic farming could feed Europeans and Americans well. It cannot feed the world.”
Articles in the report include (if you’re not a subscriber, you get to view five Economist articles without a subscription):
Not just calories: People also need the right nutrients.
How much is enough: The answer is less striaghtforward than it seems.
No easy fix: Simply using more of eveything to produce more food will not work.
Doing more with less: The only reliable way to produce more food is to use better technology.
The future of food crisis prevention: Whaty is causing food prices to soar and what can be done about it?
A prospect of plenty: For the first time in history, the whole of mankind may not get enough to eat.
Waste not, want not: Far too much food never reaches the plate.
It’s a lot to read, but the subject may be one of the most important for us, our children and grandchildren.