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Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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Shoulders Broad Enough for 7 Billion


Here’s a quiz: what are three most populous countries in the world? (Answer below*)

Today, based on various estimates by a host of authorities, the world’s population has reached seven billion people. The number staggers the imagination, and a lot of people are trying to explain or illustrate what “seven billion” means or looks like.

MSNBC has a photo essay: what do seven billion people look like?

National Geographic has a special year-long series that examines the implications or population growth and explains why it’s not time to panic – yet. (It’s sponsored by a competitor or ours, but it’s still an interesting report to read.) The magazine also posted an “info-graphic” video on YouTube, which includes this interesting fact: shoulder to shoulder, 7 billion people would occupy a place the size of – Los Angeles.

Another interesting fact: in 2008, more of the world’s people lived in cities than in rural areas, for the first time in the history of the planet.

The BBC has an interesting exercise – 7 billion people and you – where do you fit in?

Some reports suggest that population growth may actually be flattening; the Economist has an interesting discussion in “A tale of three islands.” The United Nations, on the other hand, thinks the world will reach 9.3 billion people by 2050 and 10 billion by 2100.

What we do know for sure is that food production will need to keep pace. Nutrition will need to keep pace. Diets continue to change. We will continue to deal with climate changes that will affect food production. And we know that the amount of arable land is finite, and more food will have to be produced on the same or fewer acres.

All of this suggests that all kinds of agriculture – conventional, biotechnology-based and organic – will be needed. It is unlikely that any one kind of agriculture can accomplish everything that needs to be done.

New agronomic techniques and practices will need to be adopted, to help preserve moisture and topsoil.

Agricultural science will continue to be critically important, not only for advances in biotechnology but also conventional breeding to improve seed lines. Among many other things.

And we will rely on farmers even more than we do now. The majority of us who live in cities will need farmers to do what they do best – produce more food, and more nutritious food, than they ever have before.

It will take some pretty broad shoulders – and we’re confident that farmers have them.

*Answer: The three most populous countries in the world are (1) China – 1.347 billion, (2) India – 1.2 billion and (3) the United States – 312 million.

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