Bridging the Gap
Edited by Robert C. Bird, Daniel R. Cahoy and Jamie Darin Prenkert
Chapter 9: Feeding the world beyond 2050: A coordinated approach to preserving agricultural innovation and the human right to food
In 2005, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held a meeting on the outlook for agricultural production in the year 2050. The resulting studies have been periodically updated, most recently in 2012 (Alexandratos and Bruinsma, 2012). The object was to identify issues and dangers in future food supplies, but also more broadly to assess whether we can meet global needs in 50 years. One conclusion was that the ability of the world to sustain continued population growth is highly connected to the likelihood of future advances. We simply cannot feed a predicted global population of over 9 billion people in 2050 with current agricultural technology (some of which was actually developed hundreds of years ago). In addition, the threat of climate change means that many growing regions will experience the pressure of hotter, more arid environments. The ability to ameliorate those challenges with technology may be the only way to sustain an adequate supply of food. Technology is as connected with future agriculture as physics is with space travel. Thankfully, technology has a proven record of advancing agricultural production. While the use of technology in agriculture spans human history – encompassing animal and plant selection, breeding and other growth and reproduction strategies (Nicholson, 2003) – the advent of new technologies permitting manipulation on a genetic level has accelerated the rate of change dramatically. The impact has similarly expanded and it is fair to say that modern life is highly dependent on high technology means of producing food (Charles, 2002).
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