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The REAL Farm Crisis

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The REAL Farm Crisis

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  1. The REAL Farm Crisis Feeding a World of 10 Billion People

  2. The Green Revolution • The reality of “Romantic Agriculture”: A constant struggle to survive in terrible conditions of great ignorance and constant, grinding toil and poverty. • Not until the middle of the 20th century have most humans been freed from the personal necessity of daily food procurement.

  3. Our World Food Supply:Two key problems • To produce sufficient quantities of desired foods to satisfy needs and to do it in environmentally friendly and economically sustainable ways. • To distribute food equitably

  4. Our World Food Supply • Global food production is about 4.7 billion metric tons, 99% from the land. • Plants produced 93% of the human diet, mainly from about 30 species, including 8 species of grains that provide 66% of the world’s food supply. • The 7% of food that is from animal products also comes, indirectly, from plants.

  5. World Food Production (million metric tonnes)

  6. World Cereal Production: 1961-1992 (million metric tonnes) 1961 1992

  7. World Cereal Production and Yield Requirements • Actual 1990 cereal production was 1,970 mmt. Actual 2000 production, 1,840 mmt Total 2000 world consumption 1,871 mmt. • Projected demand 2025 is 4,000 mmt. • All cereal yield currently about 2.5 to 2.9 (tons per hectare). Will need to nearly double (to 4.5 t/ha) by 2025.

  8. Raising Yields on Existing Agricultural Lands • Much of increased food supply will have to come from existing cropland. • In many areas, increases in the 50 to 100% range are still possible - India, Latin America, E. Europe, former USSR. • In other areas increases will be much more difficult - USA, China, W. Europe.

  9. World Cropland Used: 1961-1992 (Thousand Hectares) 1992 1961

  10. Bringing New Lands into Production: The Remaining Frontiers • No opportunity in Asia, Europe. In fact, in W. Asia approx. 50 million ac. are under cultivation that should not be. • Sub Saharan Africa and South America are only places left, and these have severe problems to be addressed. • Some marginal cropland in US, but cannot be farmed without environmental damage.

  11. What Can We Expect From Biotechnology? • “Green Revolution” resulted from accidental increases in “maximum genetic yield potential”. • Recent yield increases not due to increases in genetic yield potential, but due to increased resistance to diseases and insects. • Existing transgenic crops also increase yield by increased pest resistance. • Increasing “maximum genetic yield potential” may be possible with GMO’s.

  12. What Can We Expect From Biotechnology? • Is it safe? It’s tested by 3 government agencies. It is probably safe within knowable limits, say thousands of scientists. • Is it environmentally risky? No product is without risk, but existing gmv’s should have no “competitive advantage” over any other plant in a non-commercial environment. • Can we survive without it? In the US, yes. In Africa, no.

  13. The Good Old Days: They Were Terrible • We were poisoning ourselves. • Over the past 30 years, we owe a great debt of gratitude to the environmental movement in the industrialized nations. • The protection of air and water quality, of wildlife, soils, control of hazardous waste is taken for granted. • In almost every category, more progress has been made than most activists are willing to admit - “apocalypse sells”.

  14. “A Moment on the Earth”by Gregg Easterbrook, Penguin, 1996 1. Ecological impulses must be grounded in logic, not sentiment. 2. In the Western world, the age of pollution is nearly over. 3. The West must resist it’s “instant doomsday” thinking and shift to protecting the environment in the Third World.

  15. 4. People are superior to plants and animals in the natural order. It is absurd for environmental dogma to consider the human role in nature to be bad. 5. Nature is not ending, nor is human damage to the environment “unprecedented”. 6. Nature may have an upper limit on it’s potential to foster life.

  16. Summary • To produce the 1990 US harvest with 1940 yields would have required an additional 460 million acres of equivalent cropland. • Technology exists or is under development to feed 10 billion people in the World, if we are allowed to use it. • World population is 6 billion now, will be 10 billion in 2050. • To feed the current population with “organic” farming requires about 2 billion people to volunteer to depart the earth.

  17. World Cereal Production-Area Saved Through Improved Technology, 1950-2000 (Billions of Acres) CEREAL PRODUCTION: 1949-51 680 million tonnes 1995-97 2,025 million tonnes Land Spared Land Used

  18. The Heidelberg Appeal1992 Earth Summit - Rio • “The greatest evils which stalk our Earth are ignorance and oppression, and not science, technology, and industry, whose instruments, when adequately managed, are indispensable tools of a future shaped by Humanity, by itself and for itself, in overcoming major problems like overpopulation, starvation, and worldwide diseases.”

  19. “Agricultural scientists and policy makers have a moral obligation to warn political, educational, and religious leaders about the magnitude and seriousness of the arable land, food, and population problems that lie ahead. If we fail to do so in a forthright manner, we will be negligent in our duty and inadvertently will be contributing to the pending chaos of incalculable millions of deaths by starvation. The problem will not vanish by itself, to continue to ignore it will make a future solution more difficult to achieve.” Dr. Normal Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Father of the Green Revolution The man responsible for saving the lives of more people than any other person in the history of the world.