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Page added on May 24, 2012

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How will we feed world’s growing population?

The world’s population is projected to reach more than 9 billion by 2050. More people and rising living standards mean that global agriculture will have to double food production by mid-century.

Yet farming and ranching already exact a daunting toll on the environment: burn down rain forests to create more arable land, dump fertilizers onto fields that run off and choke life in rivers and oceans, emit volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, use up vast stores of freshwater for irrigation.

How can we produce enough food to feed everyone without wrecking the land, water and air needed to grow that food? We wanted to talk about this topic after reading Jonathan Foley’s article in Nature about organic versus traditional agriculture. Foley is the director of the Institute on the Environment and he’ll join The Daily Circuit Thursday to talk about sustainable agriculture.

“It took 11,000 years for us to get where we are today,” he said. “Now we have to double it in 38 years. That’s an extraordinary challenge that we won’t be able to meet unless we make some dramatic changes.”

Pamela Ronald, professor of plant pathology at the University of California, will also join the discussion.

“The worst thing for the environment is farming,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it is organic. You have to go in and destroy everything. So let’s be efficient. Let’s conserve. Let’s be smart about it.”

Minnesota Public Radio

5 Comments on "How will we feed world’s growing population?"

  1. BillT on Thu, 24th May 2012 12:20 pm 

    “How will we feed world’s growing population?”

    Answer: We won’t!

    Not possible in a collapsing world. There will be billions of deaths from Mother Nature’s Four Horsemen. GE crops are on one of the horses that will spread death.

  2. Kenz300 on Thu, 24th May 2012 12:36 pm 

    Too many people and too few resources. We keep trying to address the resources when what we really need to do is address the growing population. Access to family planning services needs to be available to all that want it. The world added a billion more people in the last 12 years and continues to grow. This is not sustainable.

  3. Hugh Culliton on Thu, 24th May 2012 12:41 pm 

    I’m with BillT. Our Malthusian moment is going to be well short of 9B, probably no too far past 7B. JH Kunstler refers to us as the “Yeast People” in reference to the way yeast dies off in a batch of beer or wine – very quickly. I hope we survive as a species and if we do, future generations will not look back on us kindly.

  4. ronpatterson on Thu, 24th May 2012 1:08 pm 

    The first three minutes of the video was really fantastic. The rest of it was just trying to tell us how we can keep trying to feed a growing population via organic farming.

    Eight minutes into the film we get this: “Yield is 45% to 100% of conventional systems”. And I suspect most organic farming would have yields a lot closer to 45% than 100%. This means that if the all the world turned to organic farming we would need almost twice as much land to feed the world.

    The world is deep, deep, deep into overshoot and organic farming will not save us. There is only one cure for overshoot and that is a massive reduction in population. It will happen and it will not be voluntary.

  5. Alec Dauncey on Sun, 27th May 2012 12:04 pm 

    The maths seems odd.

    World pop now is 7bn?
    It’s flattening out at around 10bn?
    So why would we need to double or triple food production?

    Huge proportion of agriculture is for inefficient (methane producing) meat production?

    Eat less meat and there is loads of food for 10bn of us surely?

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