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Are We Overstating the World’s Overpopulation Problem?

Are We Overstating the World’s Overpopulation Problem? thumbnail
Every spring, our company hosts a Market Summit, which brings together the editors, artists, and sales folks from all of the Meister Media Worldwide media brands to share ideas and information about the various agricultural markets we cover.

One topic we discussed was the often cited challenge of feeding a global population expected to grow to 9 billion people by 2050. I have written about it often and even dedicated a cover story to topic in 2015. Not to dismiss the challenge at all, but I have wondered if we’ve relied on the talking point too much in pitching the importance of agriculture to the public. Several of my fellow editors expressed the same thoughts during our company meeting.

With all the talk about “fake news” in the past year, I have found myself questioning just about everything I read, see, or hear. It has made me think more about the challenge of feeding 9 billion people. We have cast much of this discussion around producing higher and higher yields to meet global demand. And, honestly, that is a pretty good pitch from those who sell you seed and all the other inputs you need to grow a crop — and even us — who deliver you magazines and other forms of media content.

Growing high yields with exceptional quality is great, especially when prices are strong. But, it is becoming clear we should place more focus on your return on investment rather than placing so much attention on yields. After all, you can produce the highest yields around, but if you are not making money, you are not going to be farming much longer. And, if growers can’t achieve a fair return on investment and stay in business, it won’t matter what the population is in 2050. We all will be trouble.

Besides just production, there are other ways to ensure we can feed a growing population. Just a few would include reducing food waste, improving food distribution, and increasing the productivity of farms in developing countries. There is much work being done in all of these areas already.

And consider this: What happens in countries as they become more prosperous? Their birth rates go down. In developed countries, the fertility rate has fallen well below the 2.1 births per woman to maintain population equilibrium. According to an article by Slate magazine titled “About That Overpopulation Problem,” Germany’s birth rate is only 1.36, which has given rise to the term there “Schrumpf Gesellschaft” or shrinking society.

Even in countries expected to drive population growth like India, Mexico, and Africa, birth rates are falling. This demographic transition is happening all over the globe. More than half the global population is reproducing below the replacement rate. So, while we will surely grow well beyond our current 7 billion inhabitants on the planet, maybe we are not on the precipice of a population bomb.

And there is more good news for specialty crop growers because growing incomes and emerging middle classes around the globe will demand a more diverse diet — one rich in fruit and vegetables. That means more customers for your products.

That brings me back to your profitability, which I am sure causes you more sleepless nights than the far-off concept of feeding 9 billion people in the next 33 years or so. We as a company have launched an initiative to focus on how you can harness the rapidly emerging technology sector to not only produce high yields and great quality, but also grow in a way that is sustainable and makes you money. Genetics, robotics, data management, precision agriculture, and the Internet of Things are converging in agriculture and we are committed to help you sort through the many claims of performance and find smart technology fits for your farm.

Stay tuned for more on this initiative.

growing produce

21 Comments on "Are We Overstating the World’s Overpopulation Problem?"

  1. onlooker on Fri, 26th May 2017 5:52 am 

    I read the title and I stopped reading. You cannot overstate Overpopulation. It is the fundamental way we are in overshoot of our carrying capacity

  2. Davy on Fri, 26th May 2017 6:28 am 

    More fake green social optimism and dismissal of overpopulation as a predicament that will surely take us down.

  3. deadlykillerbeaz on Fri, 26th May 2017 7:42 am 

    The overshoot is the number of people who weigh-in at over 500 lbs. 400 pounders are the norm these days.

    If a fifty percent weight loss would take place in all of those four hundred pound and five hundred pound human mounds of fat, there would be room for another 5 billion people right away. Should be able to genetically engineer people so they aren’t fat pigs when become adults. Eugenics can be used to achieve a right-sized human at adult stage, not freaks that belong in carnivals.

    Eight adult human females that are 5’6″ tall that weigh one hundred ten pounds each is better than three three hundred pound women in Walmart riding electric shopping carts hauling them to the ice cream and candy.

    Just my opinion, I have nothing against 300 pound fat people.

    By 2030, the population should be around 9,000,000,000.

    There are three trillion trees, humans have to catch up, they’re lagging way behind the tree population.

    Trees are in overshoot, doesn’t seem to be a problem. There should be a campaign to reduce the tree population to under two trillion. More clear-cutting of forests is really necessary. The overshoot of the tree population is a problem that can no longer be ignored. Have to have a different perspective.

    More humans would help reduce the trees that are definitely in overshoot. Have to identify the problem to be able to address it properly.

    At the moment, overshoot of humans is not a problem, it is happening now, we’re there already.

  4. Midnight Oil on Fri, 26th May 2017 8:13 am 

    If so, wait a year, it will fix that error..
    Adding 250,000 per DAY…no worry….
    There are plenty of bugs to eat

  5. Hawkcreek on Fri, 26th May 2017 9:45 am 

    Over population is a problem, but at least it is a self-correcting problem. Not nearly as bad as an asteroid collision or nova of the sun.
    Why worry? Be happy.

  6. peakyeast on Fri, 26th May 2017 10:36 am 

    Eat recycled food. It is good for the environment and OKAY for you.

  7. penury on Fri, 26th May 2017 11:23 am 

    Over population of the planet by humans will never be considered a problem as long as the only posters remain “humans”.

  8. DerHundistlos on Fri, 26th May 2017 2:32 pm 

    While the author is troubled by the fake news problem, this very report is more of just that. For example, the author states the world population will reach 9 billion in 2050. We now know these projections are erroneous due to faulty inputs. The real consensus is just under 10 billion in 2050- so he’s off by just one billion, and by doing so the article is doomed to the circular file.

  9. bobinget on Fri, 26th May 2017 3:40 pm 

    Twenty five million refugees are helping out by not eating much at all.
    We know you are helping. It’s the best they can do.

  10. Cloggie on Fri, 26th May 2017 5:25 pm 

    Philipinnes situation getting pretty serious:

  11. Apneaman on Fri, 26th May 2017 6:05 pm 

    Heavy Rains Are Turning U.S. Corn Fields Into Lakes

  12. Apneaman on Fri, 26th May 2017 6:07 pm 

    Why Rains and Flooding Are Plaguing America

  13. Apneaman on Fri, 26th May 2017 6:14 pm 

    Rain drenches Toronto but Beach homes take brunt of flooding

  14. Apneaman on Fri, 26th May 2017 6:14 pm 

    Floodwaters rise again in some Lake Ontario shoreline towns

  15. Apneaman on Fri, 26th May 2017 6:15 pm 

    Flooding ‘the worst’ in Seven Mile history

  16. Apneaman on Fri, 26th May 2017 6:16 pm 

    Bowmanville residents ‘completely overwhelmed’ by relentless flooding

  17. Apneaman on Fri, 26th May 2017 6:18 pm 

    A third of the nation’s honeybee colonies died last year. Why you should care

  18. Apneaman on Fri, 26th May 2017 6:20 pm 

    Great Cancer maps

    The Worst Air Quality in the World, Mapped
    Air pollution kills more people in the U.S. than cars or guns. Imagine how China feels.

  19. Sissyfuss on Fri, 26th May 2017 11:17 pm 

    This is a poorly disguised advert for selling tech to farmers to increase their profitability. Hey, more people, more customers. Party on, cancer monkeys.

  20. Norman Pagett on Sat, 27th May 2017 3:56 pm 

    we can feed the current world population.

    what we cannot do is get the food in the right place at the right time to feed those who need it—that is because food is a product of commerce, not free grazing,

    It is also subject of constant warfare between peoples who do not care who lives of dies as long as their particular point of view is inflicted on every else.

    If my some mirecle our current 7.5bn got enough to eat, we would multiply ourselves still more unteil we reached the point where there was, again, insufficient food to eat—that is basic human nature
    We have embarked on an infinity of futilty. convinced that humankind is not subject to the laws of physics that controls everything around us:

    We are about to get a nasty shock in that respect

  21. Midnight Oil on Sat, 27th May 2017 4:59 pm 

    Francis Moore Lappe stated the same in Diet for a Small Planet way back in 1971!
    Same as it ever was….it ain’t going to happen…getting food to where it is needed.
    Sorry….it don’t work that why.
    Sam Kinison was right….get them Uhauls.

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