The Coming Food Crisis And What To Do About It

According to the best available research, we are going to have to double food supplies, globally, by 2050. Think about that for a moment. Children born today will be in their 40s at a time that we need to have already doubled food production, yet during the last 20 years we have seen only a 20 percent increase in food supply. Assuming a steady rate of increase in production (which might be optimistic) we should expect to fall far short of demand over the next few decades. This is a problem. The problem is expected to most severely affect poorer people, people in less developed nations, and poor farmers, but if the entire world is double digit percentage points short of food, almost no one is going to get by unscathed. And, at some point, when nearly everyone is seeing some sort of food shortage or extraordinarily high prices, the totally unscathed are going to start looking pretty tasty to the rest of us.

eat-the-rich_11-26-11Also, agricultural production, whether for food or biofuel, has a fairly large Carbon footprint, both by reducing natural Carbon sinks and by using fossil fuels at a fairly high rate. Doubling production of food would presumably involve increasing these effects, unless alternative approaches are developed. So even if we solve the problem of production, we might exacerbate the problem of human caused climate change. Let us not even speak of sea level rise; Over the coming century we expect sea levels to rise sufficiently to flood, either regularly or permanently, some of the most productive agricultural areas in the world, which would seriously dampen efforts to increase productivity.

And water. This will all require more water, when we are facing increasing shortages of water.

How do we address this problem? Will Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) save the day? Are there other approaches to quickly increase agricultural output? Can we eat different foods that are less difficult or costly to produce?

See: The Hydraulic Hypothesis and the End of Civilization

See: GMOs Are Interesting

Emily_CassidyEmily Cassidy knows some of these answers. Emily is a scientist with with over five years of experience working on land use, agriculture, and the impacts of growing biofuels vis-a-vis developing food crops. She is currently a research analyst with the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Earlier she worked as a scientist with the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, measuring impacts of coastal activities. Her Master’s degree at the University of Minnesota involved detailed modeling of global food availability, which involved developing a new index to quantify the number of people fed per hectare of cropland. This research was widely disseminated in mainstream media.

Recently, Emily produced a report for EWG that looks at the role of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in addressing the world’s food supply. You can get the report here. I had a few questions, so I interviewed Emily about this report as well as the larger issue of humans running out of food during the present lifetime of so many of us.

~ ~ ~

Question: The amount of space, energy, and other resources dedicated to the production of meat is enormous. According to your EWG report, producing meat requires three-quarters of the agricultural land in use. For every one calorie of meat we produce we displace about 10 calories of plant based food. You also note that there is a huge amount of waste in the food stream, with about a third (by weight, about one quarter of the calories) lost. The US tosses closer to 40 percent, and of all the forms of food, a disproportionately large percent of meat is wasted. Having recently purchased, twice in a row (apparently you can fool me twice) “fresh” chicken at my local not-very-good grocery store that was rotten the next day, I was wondering where the waste in the food stream, especially for meat, was concentrated, and if we could help solve this problem by distributing meat primarily in frozen form.

On food waste in the US, especially meat, do you have a breakdown of where the meat is wasted? I wonder if a switch to having almost all meat frozen and sold in frozen form would reduce a lot of waste.

Emily: Meat production takes a massive environmental toll, and when we waste meat, we’re wasting all the resources used to produce it. About half of the meat wasted in the U.S. and Europe is tossed at home. Better meal planning and freezing meat could be a big step to reducing household waste. Although supermarkets have an important role to play in reducing waste, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, only about 15 percent of meat waste in the U.S. occurs at supermarkets.

~ ~ ~

Emily’s report pretty much slams GMOs. The report states:

Proponents of GE crops claim that they are essential to “feed the world,” but recent evidence indicates that so far, GE crops have How to feed the world. [GMOs have] not increased crop yields enough to significantly contribute to food security…In recent decades, in fact, the dominant source
of yield improvements has been traditional crossbreeding, and that is likely to continue for the
foreseeable future. Relying on genetic engineering to double food supplies by 2050 would require a huge leap in biotechnology and doubling the recent yield trends of crops.

Question: Are there any examples of GMOs being developed that will help with this that are not just vague promises? In other words, is there any tangible namable project or potential project you know of that would contribute to that “giant leap in biotechnology”?

Emily: “Roundup Ready” corn and soybeans represent over 80 percent of the acreage growing GMOs, so it’s clear that the industry’s focus since the 1970s has been on genetic modification for herbicide tolerance. These crops haven’t improved yields because there are inherent biophysical trade-offs between productivity and pest resistance. This is why I wouldn’t bet the farm on biotechnology generating massive yield improvements. It’s similar to the live-fast die-young principle in evolutionary biology; plants are limited by their resources and can’t be good at everything at once.

Not all forms of genetic modification are created equal. There are some projects which could be promising and aim to modify a plant’s genome to improve the efficiency photosynthesis. But it seems to me that most genetic modifications only see benefits in the short term, until evolution catches up to the new genome. For example, insects have evolved tolerance to Bt crops, and U.S. Farmers have been told to lay off of them.

Where I do see exciting research that could really improve food security is the cross breeding of often ignored “orphan crops.” Just recently a new kind of drought-tolerant bean was bred by combining a modern bean with a variety traditionally grown by communities in the American Southwest. We should focus efforts and funding on improving the yields of nutritious food crops, not crops that mostly go to animal feed and biofuels.

See: The Case for Vegan Hot Dogs

~ ~ ~

Question: On a related matter, how much does the the nature of the research itself ruin GMOs as a potential source of a modest or even minor agricultural revolution? It seems to me that helping poor farmers to be less poor will always lose to helping big corporations make more money, and the big corporations seem to be doing or funding most of the research. Is this a general pattern for ag research in general? In the old days big government money went into public universities to develop crops, technology, and methods that were available to all. The current system seems different. Is this a problem?

Emily: Universities are increasingly reliant on private industry for agricultural research funding, and companies are a lot more interested in making money than improving the lives of poor people. Private spending for agricultural research is more than twice the public expenditures. Unless public research funding for agriculture improves, the future of our food system will be heavily influenced by companies seeking to make a profit.

~ ~ ~

Question: I think a lot of people assume that technology will solve many of our big problems, such as food shortages and climate change. People are divided mostly into two groups: GMO Frankenplants will rise out of the ground and take us in the dead of night (I exaggerate slightly), or they will fix the future. You are suggesting, it seems, that neither of these scenarios is likely. Bottom line, what does your report tell us about GMOs and the medium term problem of people, the poor farmers first, not having enough food?

Emily: There’s a myth that I often hear in Washington, that GMOs help the world’s poorest. If you really look into the evidence though, there’s no support for it. That’s why I wrote EWG report, to address ways to help small farmers, which is the real key to helping the world’s poorest. I’m not anti-GMO but I think we should be honest about their contribution to global food security and improving the livelihoods of poor people.

~ ~ ~

The_Population_Bomb

Question: Current research suggests we need to double our food supply by 2050. But we’ve heard that before. In every decade there are predictions about future population growth or future agricultural productivity that suggest catastrophe, and we’ve passed many of those due dates for an expected Malthusian apocalypse. Is this projection different?

Emily: Malthus assumed population growth would continue without limits. We know now that as people have more income, they generally have less children. Another result of people being wealthier us that they demand more meat and dairy. Recent research has shown that population will increase by about 30 percent by 2050, yet demand for crops is estimated to increase by 100 percent. This difference means that demand for meat and dairy is a bigger driver of crop demand than population.. We also have to keep in mind that many countries are starting to adopt biofuels mandates. Tim Searchinger recently estimated that if all countries met their food-based biofuels targets, it would be the equivalent of removing about 30 percent of calories out of the food system. So depending on biofuels mandates, crop production may have to more than double to meet demands.These policies clearly threaten global food security.

~ ~ ~

Emily’s report makes a series of specific recommendations that will close some of that huge gap in productivity vs. demand. She doesn’t mention eating the rich, but she does have a few other worthy suggestions. Eliminating food waste, shifting away from biofuels, and changing diets are all on the menu. So far, GMOs are not. I recommend that you read it and get working on this right away.


Check out: The First Earth Day, an epoch journey into politics, explosions, folk music, and old boats floating on stinking rivers.
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86 thoughts on “The Coming Food Crisis And What To Do About It

  1. Interesting article, but while everyone paints Malthus as a doomer, here is an example of what he actually wrote towards the end of An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it affects the Future Improvement of Society with remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and Other Writers:

    “On the whole, therefore, though our future prospects respecting the mitigation of the evils arising from the principle of population may not be so bright as we could wish, yet they are far from being entirely disheartening, and by no means preclude that gradual and progressive improvement in human satiety, which, before the late wild speculations on this subject, was the object of rational expectation. … A strict inquiry into the principle of population obliges us to conclude that we shall never be able to throw down the ladder, by which we have risen to this eminence; but it by no means proves, that we may not rise higher by the same means. … And although we cannot expect that the virtue and happiness of mankind will keep pace with the brilliant career of physical discovery; yet, if we are not wanting to ourselves, we may confidently indulge the hope that, to no unimportant extent, they will be influenced by its progress and will partake in its success.”

    As I read it, Malthus was throwing a bit of cold water on the utopian predictions of those other guys – not predicting inevitable starvation.

  2. I can see a change that’s totally missing from this report. Family gardens. There’s a community garden in my area. It’s been around for at least a decade. Food prices don’t have to get much higher for people to consider having a garden in their back yard. I can easily see it becoming a widespread practice. Retailers like Home Depot will cater to the new development with tools, machines, chemicals and information. My wife and I will have a small garden this year. Some lettuce, summer squash, zucchini and maybe a few others. Just enough to easily manage and take the edge off the grocery bill.

    It’s a potential that’s just sitting there, waiting to be kick started.

  3. The harsh reality of food shortage is one of the biggest crises facing civilization to date. Although GMO’S seem to have the greatest potential of addressing this food crisis, one should also keep in mind that with population growth comes the occupation of land and urbanization. Therefore what would be the use of using GMO’S if there isn’t any land available for farming practices to occur? Perhaps people can be encouraged to start their own food gardens within their own homes which in my opinion can possibly decrease food demands and promote green living.

  4. Unfortunately genetically modifying human skin to be photosynthetic would not provide enough calories without improving the efficiency of current photosynthesis by at least an order of magnitude.

    However the development of a synthetic form of photosynthesis that could convert sunlight, water and CO2 (possibly concentrated?) into glucose would only need to be a little better than RUBISCO and a persons’ daily calorie requirement could be provided by an average days sunlight and a few square metres of photo-panel.

    Even if the essential aminos, fatty acids and vitamins could also be synthesised I suspect people would still want to grow some crops as a source for those ‘flavours’.

  5. The idea of genetically modifying human skin to be photosynthetic sounds like a great idea. But although it will provide the nutrients needed by the body( although its not enough), will it take away the feeling of hunger and starvation?

  6. The statistics in this blog are a big eye opener. I think one of the big problems is that the public have the feeling that this crisis will not affect their generation and will become serious in hundreds and hundreds of years to come. after reading this blog I see the fault in this line of thought.
    I personally feel that the first way to tackle this problem would be to increase education on the benefits of contraception. If the future had less mouths to feed, it would surely be a brighter one.

  7. Photosynthesis is not very efficient. Photovoltaics is much more efficient than photosynthesis is.

    Using photovoltaics to generate electricity, then using that electricity to generate biomass (either directly or via hydrogen) is going to be more “efficient” than growing plants (as in you could get more biomass per unit of sunlight).

    A better approach to engineering humans than photosynthesis would be hydrogen utilization. You only use a couple percent of the O2 in air. If you added 2% H2 to air, it is still below the explosive limit. If you could utilize the H2 in air that you breathed for energy, you could get enough energy for ATP production. You would still need to eat food for carbon substrates.

    That would require contained atmosphere, so would work best in underground or completely contained cities.

  8. Apparently GMO’s have saved humans from hunger for many decades and they will save us again in the next 50 years. And if there’s shortage of food in the next 50 years, its nobody’s fault only the fittest will survive[wealthier}, it is natural selection. Humans just cant overpopulate the whole planet, Other species also deserve to live. 15254632

  9. Richard: Community (or private) gardens aren’t really missing from the report or the post, they are simply not covered because there is so much to talk about.

    But yes, growing food locally can have numerous benefits, and community and private gardens can make a difference.

  10. izen: I would just like to see a GMO “plant” that does nothing but convert sunlight into whatever produce one designs it for. Imagine a leaf, 10 acres in size, that produces (just underneath it) a slab of wood. If things trees do that take energy (like, grow roots and bark, fruit and branches, etc.) are removed form the equation, imagine how efficient that would be?

    Or a similar set up that produces precursors for jet fuel.

    The possibilities are endless. Or, perhaps, impossible. But I’d like to know.

  11. Who are the biggest producers of food? Farmers…
    We need farmers if we are going to have food in the future. Farmers are one of the most economically undermine assets a country have. Yet farmers are sometimes left to struggle unaided by governments. Since food security is determined by the agricultural sector, this should be shield by the government for the factors that so commonly suppress farmers.
    It farmers are supported, they will prosper in the production of food, which will in turn help fight the food crisis currently present, this also might be an possible solution to approaching future food crisis.

  12. This was a real eye-opener; I fell into the “GMOs help the poor and will save us” category until now. I still think the technology isn’t in vain, though.

    Mr Laden’s idea of reducing a GMO plant to a giant product-bearing leaf sounds interesting. Just culture the plant cells that produce the desired product; side-stepping the actual plant. It sounds a bit like what they are able to do with stem cells right now.

    (u15058167)

  13. GMO’s sound like a great solution to the problem that we’re facing, however, one had to consider the effects on our health if we consume GMO’s. Are they not considered harmful to the human body?
    Another great idea would be to educate people in the more impoverished areas and teach them to grow and harvest their own food supplies. Communal gardens?

  14. GMO’s sound like a great solution to the problem that we’re facing, however, one had to consider the effects on our health if we consume GMO’s. Are they not considered harmful to the human body?
    Another great idea would be to educate people in the more impoverished areas and teach them to grow and harvest their own food supplies. Communal gardens?
    [15000614]

  15. To put it another way, we have four decades in which to doublle deliverable agricultural water , in a world presently losing a tonne a day per capita of stored fresh water to evaporation.

  16. The Malthusian warnings of the 1970 that there would be widespread starvation by the Millenia did not quite come true. There was a green revolution that significantly increased agricultural productivity. Some of this was selective breeding of better crop plants. Some of the improvement was adopting modern intensive agricultural methods where simpler less efficient crops and cropping systems had been used before. Some of the growth in production was the result of more land used for agriculture.

    A large part of the increase in food production has been fueled (literaly!) by fossil fuels, both in farming land, fertilizers and herbicides, and delivery of a conser item. No point growing it if it cannot be sold as a product. The extra calories made available by the green revolution are to some extent oil based. Indirectly we are eating fossil fuels. Another reason why reducing our dependence on hydrocarbons is difficult.

    GM crops probably have the potential to provide plant types with better nutritional value (golden rice) better productivity and better adapted to changing conditions. There are limits, the 10-acre wood is probably not a feasible option without a lot more knowledge than we have at present. Controlling growth patterns is well beyond our understanding. The present level of genetic science is primitive. We can copy and paste short bits into existing functioning organisms. And sometimes that bit works as desired. Transferring insect resistance or frost hardiness. Sometimes there are unintended consequences, like the lateral transfer of herbicide resistance. Given the limited abilities genetic science has at present it is depressing to see the major use has been to genetically modify certain crops to be herbicide resistant, as a marketing exercise for the makers of the herbicide. Which has recently been confirmed to be a carcinogen. The other use, to make such GM commercial products sterile just seems….!?

    Electricity to glucose or other calorie source with efficiencies better than photosynthesis and using water and air as substrates would be wonderful. If not glucose, perhaps alcohol. That would have the advantage of dual use! Unfortunately the energy barrier to break the C-O2 bonds is high. Millions of years of evolution, a few decades of hard scientific research has not improved much on RUBISCO. The Catalyst that biology uses to do the trick. That makes a better way look improbable.

    But beyond a big cut in meat eating, significant changes to our dietary habits and concomitant changes to the organisations, the agribusiness that grows, prepares and markets the product, avoiding future food shortages may need such a wild card to solves these problems.

    Room temperature superconductors would be useful too…(grin)

  17. If GMOs are so ineffectual, as this woman seems to think, then why are hundreds of thousands of farmers flocking to them?

    The whole argument, “Will GMOs save the day?” is a vast straw man. How about, “GMOs: another tool in the toolbox.

    It should be mentioned: The “Environmental Working Group” is a disgusting organization. The regularly put out pro-organic propaganda that vilifies “conventional” agriculture, going so far as to claim that non-organically grown produce is contaminated.

    Luckily, we have agricultural scientists like Steve Savage devoted to exposing the EWG’s lies:

    http://appliedmythology.blogspot.com/2012/06/how-usa-unwittingly-aids-ewgs-pesticide.html

  18. @- RA Venter
    GMO’s sound like a great solution to the problem that we’re facing, however, one had to consider the effects on our health if we consume GMO’s. Are they not considered harmful to the human body?

    No.
    (Or at least, only by those with a serious woo problem)

    “Another great idea would be to educate people in the more impoverished areas and teach them to grow and harvest their own food supplies. Communal gardens?”

    People growing their own food in communal gardens is hopelessly inefficient. The reason we are able to sustain the present population is because most have moved OF the land are are no longer required to work to grow food. Because of the big efficiencies of intensive farming and industrial scale agri-business we have a much more efficient food production system than if everyone was growing their own.
    Not to mention the modern technological society to go with it.

    Communal gardens may well be an effective way to grow locally the herbs, spices and speciality products that future shortages make unavailable as the global agricultural system has to focus on as much basic calories as possible. But they would have no impact on the scale of food shortage potentially caused by future population growth and possible declining agricultural productivity from climate change and fresh water shortages. (the Californian drought?)

    Better hope the projection of increased water vapour and an increased water cycle in an AGW world are true.
    Or pray for rain.

  19. There is no need whatsoever to double the world’s food supply. Instead, we need to halve the world’s population.

    This is the only logical, reasonable and common sense “answer” that there is. The human impact upon the biosphere is extremely huge and growing worse daily. This has to stop. The right answer is to lower global population levels as fast as possible.

  20. “why are hundreds of thousands of farmers flocking to them?”

    Millions of people eat MuckDonalds, a fact that provides zero evidence of the Muck’s being worth eating.

    “Appeal to Popularity” is a logical fallacy.

    One major reason for my GMO-scepticism is that its supporters apparently can’t support it without using defective arguments such as this.

  21. Never mind the potential for a thalidomide-style catastrophe, GMOs represent far more potent environmental risks than human safety risks: genetic diversity is reduced, excessive use of pesticide is encouraged – what happens if all the insects die? All the bees?

  22. Population reduction is far more important than continuing to destroy our environment and aggravating the in-progress mass-extinction event we are causing by further intensifying agricultural practices.

  23. We’ve spent 100 years increasing fecundity in the 3rd-world by providing them with technology in the industrial, agricultural and medical fields.
    It is high time we provided them with whatever is needed to reduce that fecundity down to something that is *at most* replacement*.
    Europe’s population is under control (or it would be, if they controlled their borders effectively).
    China’s population is under control.
    India’s is completely out of control, as is the population of the various arab states, South-East Asia, and South America isn’t much better.
    *This* is what should be focussed on – not generating ever-increasing amounts of food to sustain an unsustainable population growth.

  24. GMOs, community gardens, agricultural policy, etc.: all good but no panaceas.

    Useful rule: “thou shalt not depend on miracles (or “luck” or serendipitous technologies).” Make policy based on the tools we have right now, and the tools we can reasonably expect to have shortly that are based on current canonical (mainstream-accepted) science.

    With those points in mind, all of the current policy proposals for improving agricultural output and efficiency, are mere tinkering around the edges of the elephant in the room: overpopulation.

    There are two key factors that affect birth rate: equality for women, and economic security. With both in place, assuming reasonable access to birth control, populations decrease to sustainable levels through purely voluntary means.

    So now I’ll cut to the chase:

    We can let the status quo continue, and we will continue to see abysmal human rights conditions for women and abysmal economic inequities in the regions that are in most desperate need of reforms and population decreases. All the food aid in the world, and all the improvements in agricultural productivity and efficiency, will only prolong the already-chronic suffering and continue the preventable casualty rate.

    Or we can tell the governments and civil society institutions in those areas that unless they enact reforms to provide female equality, economic security, and access to contraception, the world will cut them off from access to food aid by international institutions. In effect that would be threatening those societies with social explosions that destroy their ruling elites. But from a moral perspective, the net amount of suffering via this route is most likely no greater than from “letting” (making) the status-quo continue.

    The choice is between “letting” (making-by-default) people starve until they change, or “making” (by direct intent) people starve until they change. But either way, people will starve until they change. There is no escaping this, as the rich nations will always be able to afford all or most of the food they want. The only question is how to speed up the change and reduce the suffering and starving.

    The hypothetical world government that could enforce the necessary edicts, is every bit as much a “miracle” as genetically-engineered photosynthetic humans and solar food synthesizers, so we can take it off the table as well. At which point we are left with what, exactly? Culture change by means that are presently accessible, most notably global media including the internet.

    What we must do then, in addition to all the rest of it (gardens, GMOs, etc.), is use all available means of media to promote culture change in the most desperately-afflicted areas.

    But if there’s just one “miracle technology” the world should be betting on, with all due financial support, it’s the “male pill.” That, by itself, could truly save the world.

    Mr. Gates, tear down that wall: fund the male pill as your first priority.

  25. Meat and dairy should be banned on ethical grounds.

    Just as slavery was banned.

    That the meat and dairy industry require wasting huge amounts of crops and water on livestock that could otherwise be spent on feeding humans is the secondary problem.

    If humans want to continue to commit evil upon other sentient species then I find it hard to take their whining about the effects of that seriously. Health and environmental effects.

    I cancelled my donations to a heart disease charity once I realised a) they fund testing on animals b) the consumption of meat being a leading contributor to heart disease c) advocating a meat free diet is seen as “extreme” but cutting open a dog and surgically modifying it to give it heart disease is “necessary”

    Screw humans

  26. Sharon Astyk also contributes to ScienceBlogs. She and her husband ran a small farm for many years, though lately they have been preoccupied with numerous foster children, and plan to move to a small city. She is the coauthor of A Nation of Farmers, and the author of Depletion and Abundance, among other books. In 2011, citing the UN Special Report on the Right to Food, she wrote:

    “In fact there was ample evidence that small farm yields were in many cases higher per acre, and that the lowered cost of agriculture inputs often meant more food security for the world’s farmer even when their yields were slightly lower. Even more importantly, organic agricultural yields might have been slightly lower on the average in many cases, but they were better in years of extreme weather, suggesting that organic agriculture was more likely to endure climate change better.”

    Her entire post is pertinent to this one:
    http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2011/03/10/we-could-feed-the-world-with-l/

  27. JR you need to rethink your position on this for a couple of reasons. The less obvious one is the one discussed in the post and Emily Cassidy’s report. If we kept population the same, widespread increased demand for animal products and fuel would still increase demand for production beyond sustainable levels without doing something about it.

    Since the most likely way to reduce population growth is shifting towards a wider demographic transition, and the DT is related to increased demand for less efficient products, the problem remains.

  28. “GMOs represent far more potent environmental risks than human safety risks”

    Of course, since there is no evidence for such a bit of hyperbole, the rest of your comment is easily dismissed.

  29. The increasing food supply for me is a great idea. That way household will have enough food, hopefully they will be at a fair price so that people will be able to afford it, in that way people will have more than enough food but it would be a matter of not wasting it.

  30. Mankge N.S., Your statement that GMOs have “saved humans for many decades” is not supported. Perhaps you are thinking of the traditional cross breeding of the green revolution? Many folks get these methods confused but they are very different. GMOs have only been used on farms since the mid-1990’s.

  31. While the world faces famine some African countries are not in the least worried. Countries like South Africa and Zimbabwe used to be exporters of grain and maize. Zimbabwe was called the breadbasket of the world. Because of politics farmers have been- and are still being -removed from their land. The result is famine in Zimbabwe and South Africa now has to import food from other countries. To me it sounds like total madness for the world not to intervene in situations like these when food is in such shortage. These countries- and the rest of Africa- could play a huge role in producing food to sustain the growing world population. Fertile ground is not being cultivated. A pity that politics are more important than food production.
    15026486

  32. I think we should focus on stopping the over-population of the earth rather than to focus on more food production. The best way to solve this problem is to decline our population growth. I also agree with the fact that the GMO crops will not necessarily provide more food for the poor. The fact that there is a large financial gap between the rich and the poor contributes to the food shortage. If people were financially closer together there will not be high waste levels.

  33. Greg, yes, all you would have to do is mix CO2 with H2 and O2 and there are bacteria that will covert it into biomass. You could also make the H2 + CO2 into methanol and grow bacteria on the methanol.

  34. Craig T., #24:

    Population reduction is far more important than continuing to destroy our environment

    Follow suit, put your gun where your mouth is. SCNR
    (Of course you meant population growth reduction. But then better write it so.)

  35. Food shortage is a real issue more than government politics, i think no place can save itself from that, unless help is acquired, a single area, region or country may not have the answer to this at this point but , nations combing to help one another in skills education and even food supply , especially to the poorest will decrease the amount of people dying of starvation, and the overuse of agricultural grounds in aims to produce more at a faster rate may delay production because if the grounds are not given enough time to recuperate , they will e damaged and not produce for longer, we will have to look deeper into how GMOs can help for now but also come up with a more sustainable method

  36. a thalidomide-style catastrophe

    The thalidomide catastrophe happened because of too little animal testing.
    Take that, ALF hippies!

  37. Over population in developing countries like South Africa, is a result of food shortages. Land that is suitable to grow and sustain crops is being converted to living spaces for people.

    Money that could be used to promote farming and other agricultural procedures is spent on grant to expanding families. However, will having less people reduce food wastage?

    Food is, to some extent, independent on overpopulation (I speculate). It is not the rich that contribute much to overpopulation, neither is it the poor that contribute much to food wastage.
    There is a large domestic wastage of food in the upper-class societies. How many ” rich ” families have supper’s leftovers for breakfast the following day? Or throughout any meal of the week?

    Doubling food should not be the major global concern come 2050, what should be is our mindset and good practice. Or we might as well expect the Earth to increase by 50% come 2050.

  38. African countries are best in production of food in the world the crisis is lack of resources to manufacture them .The crisis is of lack of food is in African people, we don’t have ownership of what we have people from outside the world takes advantages because we don’t want to work we want to be feed.

  39. Conserving what is available can be the best solution for food insecurity.Since the world’s population is growing at a very fast rate. It seems as GMO’s is the only solution for these coming food crisis. Production of GMO’s must be increased.
    u14402298

  40. Food crisis in Africa can be can be preserve by implementing ownership of resources.The food we export outside the country is to much because it can able to feed us.The solution is to use GMO because the population rate is growing fast.
    (13411013)

  41. Yes in the near future we,or rather our children, will face a global crisis of food shortage as a result of the exploding human population.China has tried the one child policy but that does nothing but leaves the country as dismare, with a million of spoilt brats and women fed on contraceptives. You can blame them-you cannot blame them. Solution to this?frankly i do not know but i think GMG’s will help for we shall also lack fields in which to plough. Laboratories will be farms-that is our future.

  42. Yes in the near future we,or rather our children, will face a global crisis of food shortage as a result of the exploding human population.China has tried the one child policy but that does nothing but leaves the country as dismare, with a million of spoilt brats and women fed on contraceptives. You can blame them-you cannot blame them. Solution to this?frankly i do not know but i think GMG’s will help for we shall also lack fields in which to plough. Laboratories will be farms-that is our future.
    (15063926)

  43. Danielle van Wyk is highlighting an important point ;we try to reduce our population growth rather than focusing on how to increase food production and in terms of cost it is cheaper.The population is massively increasing continuously which means even by the year 2050 food production will need to be doubled or tripled. The GMO’s can play a vital role in increasing food production but we must keep it in mind that they are genetically modified, hence a lo t of money is invested in, therefore there a profit is expected thus making GMO’s being affordable to the rich.

  44. I agree that we have a big problem on our hands concerning food shortages, but I think we should look on fixing other factors that are playing a role in the problem as well. The rate our population is growing is obviously happening too fast for our resources to keep up. Should we not try and reduce the rate our population is growing(as well as other possible factors) whilst working on the food shortage crisis? 15055940

  45. To reduce the increasing problem of world-wide food shortages ,we need a more scientific approach to food production.There should be intensive studies done on how to mass-produce food while being more eco-friendly.Although organic , ‘green’ farming is the ideal, currently it can not produce enough food to solve the problem of world-wide hunger.

  46. The increase in the world population lead to an increase in the land demand for people to live and this leave us with the limited peace of land for agriculture . Since we cant kill each other to decrease population Genetically Modified Food is our only option.

  47. The increase in the world population lead to an increase in the land demand for people to live and this leave us with the limited peace of land for agriculture . Since we cant kill each other to decrease population GMF is our only option.

  48. The increase in the world population lead to an increase in the land demand for people to live and this leave us with the limited peace of land for agriculture . Since we cant kill each other to decrease population GMF is our only option.
    14104271

  49. Due to the immense growth rate of the human population food shortages could become a big concern. As the growth of the human population increases more agricultural land is being used for housing and less land is left for agricultural needs. Food prices are going to increase and poverty is going to become a big concern if we do not find a solution.
    15099483

  50. if we could supply fresh soil to poor communities along with seeds they could grow their own crops.

  51. Although it is the ideal to produce organic food, it is not economically justifiable to do on large scale. more money should be spent on researching the impact of GMO food on humans and the enviroment. Until we can mass-produce food organically we will need GMO food to combat hunger.

  52. A number of valuable comments have been raised about this interesting article. The information in the article indicated that GMO’s have not provided much value in increased yields of crops (yet). Apart from the suggested eliminating of food waste, shifting away from biofuels, changing diets, countries will have to ensure that population growth is contained and available agricultural land is used optimally. How many countries are really concerned about their population growth and their ability to provide food for the masses?

  53. This crisis of food shortages was inevitable because there is always a limit to everything. The world has so many mouths to feed and I am not implying that we should wipe out populations but that we should address issues such as overpopulation that have a direct impact on food. Future generations will suffer the consequences of our present poor decision making. When we can deal with deforestation, burning of fossil fuels and overuse greenland, we can open up avenues for finding solutions for food shortages.

  54. This crisis of food shortages was inevitable because there is always a limit to everything. The world has so many mouths to feed and I am not implying that we should wipe out populations but that we should address issues such as overpopulation that have a direct impact on food. Future generations will suffer the consequences of our present poor decision making. When we can deal with deforestation, burning of fossil fuels and overuse greenland, we can open up avenues for finding solutions for food shortages. (15195237)

  55. The food crisis and government politics go hand in hand with each other. Personally I feel as though there is enough food in the world for everyone but too many people are too poor to afford it. Therefore I believe that more money and attention must be paid to our farmers in order to make food sustainability less expensive and increase food security for consumers both above and below the bread line
    15236995

  56. But if we can work on decreasing the teenage pregnancy which cause an increase in population then will eventually have less of food production to do

  57. I agree with the article. This is the similar situation with the predators in Africa, except that the population of the lampreys increased whereas the African predator population is decreasing to the edge of being endangered. Once again mankind interfere negatively on ecological balance.

  58. I agree that food gardens are necessary. Another source of nutrients is seaweed which are commonly found along coastlines. Seaweed is not properly utilized along the African coastline where it grows proficiently and could make a significant difference to alleviate the food shortage in Africa if it is properly harvested.

  59. GMOs are currently successful in providing third world countries with food security.For example South Africa has a very large population and yet there is great production that it supplies other foreign countries.However there is still food insecurity caused by production crisis and that does not affect those who are able to afford enough food.

  60. Maybe the problem is not the shortage of food,but the distribution of food. Surely if a country like South Africa produces enough food that it can even supply other surrounding countries,why cant a country like America or the UK do the same. After all sharing is caring.

  61. As the population increases the demand for food also increases however humans will require most of the land and by that it will lead to a decrease of food that can be produced and global warming has an impact in the food that’s being planted and if there’s drought or heavy rainfall most of the crops will be damaged however using GMOs the crops will not die and the crops will grow fast enough to feed an increasing population

  62. u15064558 As the population increases the demand for food also increases however humans will require most of the land and by that it will lead to a decrease of food that can be produced and global warming has an impact in the food that’s being planted and if there’s drought or heavy rainfall most of the crops will be damaged however using GMOs the crops will not die and the crops will grow fast enough to feed an increasing population

  63. This is extremely scary and eye-opening. It is clear that if we do not do something right now, the future generations will suffer severely. The demand for food clearly increases daily, as the population increases but can the demand for food also be increasing because people today are unable to tell when they have had enough eat and is eating more than they need to or should?
    u15116434

  64. This could be a big problem more than thought to be if we can these non-renewable resources; water and arable land. The amount of these a country has determines how it is capable to overcome this crisis .However, if a country has but lacks agricultural skills is going to drown in the waves of famine.

  65. This could be a big problem more than it is thought to be if we can not conserve these non-renewable resources; water and arable land. The amount of these a country has determines how it is capable to overcome this crisis .However, if a country has but lacks agricultural skills is going to drown in the waves of famine.

  66. GMOs are currently successful in providing third world countries with food security.For example,South Africa has a very large population and it can still supply other foreign countries with production.However within the country there is food insecurity caused by production crisis and the means of not being to afford to buy enough food. (14165865)

  67. The fact that GMOs are even necessary obviously proves that we’re demanding more than the earth can supply us. While GMOs would provide an easy solution to the problem that is food insecurity, it is just a ‘quick fix’. GMO crops have the ability to infect organic and commercial farmed crops. There’s no saying what the long-term effects are of GMOs (on both the earth and on us) but studies have shown that genetically modified crops cause death of bees and in turn, communities of bees. Somehow, we need to fix the real problem.

  68. Another major factor that is contributing to the international and local food shortages is the change in rainfall patterns that can result in droughts when crops are desperately in need of good rain. This leads to a lower yield of crops and thus less food for humans and animals alike. We can try to compensate for this by planting crops that have been genetically modified to withstand water shortages.

  69. The governments of countries who have well developed agricultural systems should cooperate to help poor, underdeveloped countries improve their agricultural production and thus decrease the food shortages.

  70. Governments in general, but especially the South African government must cooperate with commercial farmers so that the maximum amount of food can be produced while having minimum effect on the environment.

  71. The South African government must cooperate with commercial farmers so that the maximum amount of food can be produced while having minimum effect on the environment. They should also work together to improve the profits of farmers and address job creation.

  72. by the look of things and findings of the researchers poor people are getting poorer everyday. For meat and dairy industry the must tone down they are consuming way more than they should be. These crops and water would be of great help to many in order to fight the food crisis

  73. by the looks of things and findings of the researchers poor are getting poorer everyday. The gap between rich and poor its becoming more wider everyday. Meat and dairy industry must tone down as they consume more than they should be. These crops and that water could be of a great help to minimise the crisis of food.

  74. We’ve spent 100 years increasing fecundity in the 3rd-world by providing them with technology in the industrial, agricultural and medical fields.
    It is high time we provided them with whatever is needed to reduce that fecundity down to something that is *at most* replacement*.

    Well, most countries are either – headed in that direction, India, and a few others, or – already there, Bangladesh, Vietnam. (From memory but that’s about right.) I sued to recommend this TED talk because it showed why populations will continue to increase despite birthrates being at or below replacement rates.

    Now I want people to look at the admittedly clever demonstration at the end showing that a 9-10 billion population is inevitable through different eyes. If you watch you’ll see an unspoken presumption working through the numbers. That presumption is that generations are fifteen years. It’s absolutely true that a lot of women in the world do start having children at that age. What I do nowadays is play with those numbers.

    If the average age at first birth of a child for women is increased by 5, or 10, or 15 or more years, what effect does that have on population numbers? Take two extremes as examples. In one community, women have only 2 children but the first one is born when they are 15 years old. In the other community, women also have 2 children but the average age of first birth is 30. So you have women in one community remaining childless until 30, in the other community women become grandmothers at 30, great-grandmothers at 45, great-great-grandmothers at 60, g-g-great-grandmothers at 75.

    Good health care (the communities should be identical in everything except maternal age at first birth) means that women’s average life expectancy is 80. By the time she dies, how many descendants should there be at the funeral? To make it easy we’ll presume that every woman has one son and one daughter and we count children only once, so we count daughter’s children only.

    Woman 1 adds 2 children added to her family every 15 years.So she has 10 descendants by the time she dies. Woman 2 adds children to her family every 30 years. By the time she dies at 80, there are only 4 descendants. (You’ll notice if you play with the numbers a lot, that you can construct scenarios where women can have more children but smaller aggregate families than women who have children and grandchildren a lot younger.)

    In the real world, the changes possible are a bit smaller than this, but they are large. What you want to do is to reduce the number of generations in families, not just the numbers of children. The only way this can be done is by education and employment of girls and women.

    Watch the talk, but change the way the boxes are added at the end. (That part starts around 10:30 in.) https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_religions_and_babies

  75. The only sustainable way to solve the global food crisis is to distribute GMO seeds to grassroots farmers and medium business commercial farmers – in part using government subsidies so as to eliminate the issue of the current corporate monopoly on GMO crops.

  76. One possible way to affect change in the global food crisis is to enforce laws that prevent GMO seeds from being non-reproducable, that is that the plants grown from them grow seeds themselves, so that people don’t continually have to refer back to seed banks

  77. Anyone that grows a garden WITH an extremist ideology of “being independent” from the rest of society is a terrorist. We see and hear all. This is a warning

  78. Did you see yesterday’s roll call vote for H.R. 1599 “Deny Americans the Right to Know Act” ~ DARK Act ~ aka Don’t You Dare Demand GMO Labels ?
    Here is the NPR story
    It passed 275 – 150 with YES votes from Walz, Kline, Paulsen, McCollum, Emmer, and Peterson with NO votes from Ellison and Nolan.
    BTW, the supporters of the bill call it the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015”

  79. Most of our food problems is caused by environmentalists and global warming advocates….according to climate scientists even if we stopped 100% of all man-made CO2 emissions tomorrow the effects of global warming would still occur so obviously this means that it’s more important to prepare for the negative effects of everything (including global warming).

    I predict that the global food crisis will be in the 2030s-2040s because of the population growth (not global warming).

    What people have to do is start producing their own food in their backyards year-round…this should be practical and affordable for most people.

    If people don’t do this we will run out of food, food prices will go up dramatically…there’s no stopping it….it’s inevitable (although I can’t pinpoint the exact time that it will happen, it WILL happen eventually).

  80. I think there will be many food crises, some of which are underway, like drought and avian flu.

    I ran across a headline yesterday that Russians produce some 40% of their food in dacha gardens. Once you grow it, the smart thing is to preserve it, and stow it in a root cellar for winter. The wife sent me a link for a prefab root cellar that probably costs as much as our house. A friend posted a link for DIY greenhouses built partially into the ground, but we have too much shale to be digging into the ground.
    http://naturalhomes.org/naturalliving/russian-dacha.htm

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