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The World in 2050 and Food Supply

VIEWS: 6 PAGES: 4

  • pg 1
									Food	
  Supply	
  in	
  the	
  World	
  In	
  2050	
  
Alex	
   Rogers,	
   Institute	
   of	
   Zoology,	
   Zoological	
   Society	
   of	
   London,	
   Regent’s	
   Park,	
  
London,	
   NW1	
   4RY.	
   Also	
   International	
   Programme	
   on	
   State	
   of	
   the	
   Ocean	
  
(http://www.stateoftheocean.org).	
  

By	
   2050	
   projections	
   of	
   population	
   increase	
   suggest	
   that	
   there	
   will	
   be	
   9	
   billion	
  
humans	
  on	
  Earth.	
  This	
  represents	
  a	
  significant	
  challenge	
   to	
  us	
  in	
  food	
   production.	
  
To	
   meet	
   the	
   demand	
   of	
   such	
   a	
   population	
   explosion	
   we	
   will	
   need	
   to	
   increase	
  
production	
  of	
  cereals	
  from	
  2.1	
  to	
  3	
  billion	
  tonnes	
  per	
  annum	
  and	
  meat	
  from	
  200	
  
million	
  tonnes	
  to	
  470	
  million	
  tonnes.	
  

Eighty	
   percent	
   of	
   this	
   additional	
   food	
   production	
   is	
   supposed	
   to	
   come	
   through	
  
increased	
   efficiency	
   of	
   agriculture	
   with	
   twenty	
   percent	
   coming	
   from	
   farming	
   of	
  
new	
   land.	
   Achieving	
   such	
   figures	
   of	
   production	
   are	
   based	
   bringing	
   some	
   of	
   the	
  
most	
   unproductive	
   and	
   basic	
   agricultural	
   systems,	
   mostly	
   in	
   the	
   developing	
  
world,	
  up	
  to	
  western	
  levels	
  of	
  productivity.	
  

From	
  1964	
  to	
  2004	
  output	
  of	
  crops	
  increased	
  on	
  average	
  by	
  2%	
  a	
  year	
  achieving	
  
an	
  increase	
  of	
  144%	
  over	
  the	
  forty-­‐year	
  period.	
  Thus,	
  it	
  is	
  tempting	
  to	
  think	
  that	
  
the	
  increases	
  in	
  food	
  production	
  required	
  by	
  2050	
  are	
  relatively	
  easy	
  to	
  achieve.	
  
However,	
  a	
  closer	
   look	
  at	
  agriculture	
  and	
   the	
  state	
  of	
  the	
  planet	
  indicate	
   that	
   this	
  
is	
  not	
   the	
  case.	
  In	
   many	
  of	
  the	
   world’s	
  most	
  important	
  areas	
  for	
  the	
  growing	
  of	
  
cereals	
   there	
   has	
   been	
   a	
   plateau	
   of	
   production	
   for	
   25	
   years	
   or	
   more.	
   This	
   is	
  
because	
   following	
   the	
   release	
   of	
   productive	
   varieties	
   of	
   wheat,	
   rice	
   and	
   other	
  
crop	
   plants	
   production	
   has	
   reached	
   80-­‐85%	
   of	
   the	
   genetic	
   potential	
   of	
   these	
  
crops.	
   The	
   genomes	
   of	
   these	
   species,	
   produced	
   through	
   millions	
   of	
   years	
   of	
  
evolution,	
   simply	
   cannot	
   be	
   manipulated	
   any	
   further	
   through	
   conventional	
  
breeding	
   and	
   hybridization,	
   to	
   produce	
   more	
   food.	
   About	
   70%	
   of	
   the	
   world’s	
  
water	
   use	
   is	
   by	
   agriculture,	
   with	
   this	
   figure	
   rising	
   to	
   85-­‐90%	
   regionally	
   in	
   areas	
  
such	
  as	
  Asia,	
   the	
  Middle	
  East,	
   North	
  Africa	
  and	
  sub-­‐Saharan	
  Africa.	
  It	
  is	
   thought	
  
that	
  overall	
  5-­‐25%	
  of	
  water	
  use	
  is	
  from	
  non-­‐sustainable	
  resources,	
  such	
  as	
  fossil	
  
water	
   with	
   this	
   figure	
   rising	
   to	
   10-­‐35%	
   for	
   agriculture.	
   Increasing	
   yields	
   through	
  
the	
  use	
  of	
  fertilisers	
  led	
  to	
  an	
  increase	
  of	
  sevenfold	
  in	
  the	
  quantities	
  of	
  nitrogen	
  
fertilisers	
  between	
  1960	
   and	
   1995	
   and	
  phosphorus	
   by	
  3.5	
   fold.	
   Both	
   of	
  these	
  will	
  
increase	
  by	
  another	
  threefold	
  by	
  2050	
  if	
  the	
  current	
  pattern	
  of	
  use	
  continues.	
  In	
  
many	
  parts	
  of	
  the	
   world	
  pesticides	
  are	
  also	
  used	
  heavily	
  to	
  maintain	
  crop	
  yields	
  
and	
   global	
   use	
   amounted	
   to	
   about	
   2.5	
   million	
   tonnes	
   in	
   2000.	
   The	
   quantities	
  
released	
   and	
  methods	
   of	
  use	
   of	
   fertilisers	
  and	
   pesticides	
   are	
   incredibly	
  damaging	
  
to	
  the	
  environment	
  and	
  to	
  human	
  health.	
  We	
  are	
  also	
  faced	
  with	
  the	
  simple	
  fact	
  
that	
   agriculture	
   developed	
   in	
   the	
   Middle	
   East	
   and	
   spread	
   across	
   temperate	
   to	
  
warm	
  temperate	
  latitudes	
  for	
  a	
  very	
   good	
   reason.	
  It	
  is	
   in	
   this	
   belt	
  that	
  large	
  areas	
  
of	
   land	
   lie	
   in	
   a	
   relatively	
   benign	
   climate	
   with	
   rich	
   soils.	
   Elsewhere,	
   the	
  
environment	
  is	
  not	
  so	
  benign	
  for	
  agriculture	
  with	
   poor	
  soils,	
   low	
  levels	
  of	
  water	
  
supply,	
  extreme	
  weather	
  conditions	
  and	
  an	
  abundance	
  of	
  pests	
  and	
  disease.	
  	
  

These	
   problems	
   are	
   significant	
   challenges	
   in	
   themselves	
   but	
   coupled	
   with	
   the	
  
emerging	
  threat	
  of	
  climate	
  change	
  and	
  the	
  new	
   markets	
  for	
  biofuels,	
   meeting	
  the	
  
global	
   demand	
   for	
   food	
   by	
   2050	
   becomes	
   a	
   titanic	
   task.	
   The	
   failure	
   in	
  
Copenhagen	
  to	
  reach	
  a	
  deal	
  to	
  limit	
  CO2	
   emissions	
  means	
  that	
  by	
   2050	
  levels	
  of	
  
CO2	
   will	
   reach	
   450	
   –	
   500ppm.	
   This	
   means	
   a	
   temperature	
   increase	
   of	
   up	
   to	
   2	
  
degrees	
   C,	
   an	
   increasingly	
   acidic	
   ocean	
   and	
   more	
   frequent	
   extreme	
   weather	
  
events.	
   The	
   impacts	
   on	
   agriculture	
   will	
   be	
   complex	
   and	
   geographically	
   very	
  
unevenly	
  spread.	
  Most	
  negative	
  impacts	
  will	
  fall	
  on	
  developing	
  states,	
  particularly	
  
Africa,	
   where	
   crop	
   yields	
   may	
   decline	
   as	
   much	
   as	
   15-­‐30%	
   by	
   the	
   end	
   of	
   the	
  
century.	
   Elsewhere,	
   crop	
   yields	
   may	
   increase	
   with	
   expansion	
   of	
   areas	
   for	
  
cropping	
  and	
  increased	
  length	
  of	
  growing	
  season.	
  The	
  likely	
  overall	
  effect	
  of	
  this	
  
will	
   be	
   an	
   increase	
   in	
   food	
   prices	
   and	
   a	
   decrease	
   in	
   food	
   security.	
   Increased	
  
biofuel	
  production	
  will	
  also	
  have	
  similar	
  impacts.	
  All	
  of	
  this	
  will	
  occur	
  with	
  a	
  shift	
  
of	
  population	
  from	
  rural	
  living	
  to	
  urban	
  environments.	
  

In	
  the	
  oceans,	
  the	
  full	
  disaster	
  of	
  overexploitation,	
   pollution	
  and	
  climate	
  change	
  
will	
  be	
  coming	
  to	
  fruition	
  by	
  2050	
  if	
  we	
  continue	
  as	
  in	
  the	
  present	
  day.	
  All	
  of	
  the	
  
major	
   fish	
   stocks	
   exploited	
   presently	
   will	
   have	
   collapsed	
   because	
   of	
   overfishing.	
  
This	
  will	
  be	
  combined	
  with	
  the	
  impacts	
  of	
  ecosystem	
  collapse.	
  Coral	
  reefs	
  will	
  be	
  
in	
  severe	
   decline,	
   with	
  many	
  completely	
   destroyed	
  (possibly	
  the	
  entire	
  Caribbean	
  
reef	
  system),	
  or	
  in	
  a	
  severely	
  degraded	
  state	
  (mixed	
  coral	
  /	
  algal	
  systems).	
  Dead	
  
zones	
   will	
   have	
   increased	
   in	
   number	
   and	
   area,	
   some	
   coastal	
   regions	
   will	
   be	
  
plagued	
   by	
   blooms	
   of	
   deadly	
   toxic	
   algae	
   or	
   huge	
   swarms	
   of	
   jellyfish.	
   So	
   severe	
  
will	
  these	
  affects	
  be	
   that	
   they	
   will	
  have	
  a	
  negative	
  impact	
  on	
   the	
   health	
  of	
  people	
  
living	
   on	
   the	
   coast	
   in	
   some	
   regions.	
   Changes	
   in	
   the	
   distribution	
   of	
   marine	
   animals	
  
and	
   plants,	
   in	
   response	
   to	
   climate	
   change	
   will	
   severely	
   impact	
   those	
   in	
  
developing	
   countries,	
   with	
   again,	
   Africa,	
   being	
   most	
   severely	
   impacted.	
   Many	
  
species	
   will	
   go	
   extinct	
   as	
   a	
   result	
   of	
   environmental	
   change	
   or	
   competition	
   from	
  
invasive	
  species.	
  
Given	
  such	
  a	
  picture	
  what	
  are	
  we	
  likely	
  to	
  be	
  eating	
  in	
  2050?	
  

There	
   is	
  no	
  doubt	
  that	
  increasing	
   problems	
   with	
   food	
   security	
  will,	
   by	
   2050,	
  have	
  
forced	
  the	
  UK	
  and	
  Europe	
  to	
  emphasise	
  local	
  agricultural	
  production	
  as	
  a	
  source	
  
of	
   food.	
   Exotic	
   foodstuffs	
   that	
   we	
   have	
   become	
   used	
   to	
   buying	
   everyday	
   in	
  
supermarkets	
   will	
   become	
   scarce	
   and	
   expensive.	
   If	
   agriculture	
   is	
   well	
   managed	
  
over	
   coming	
   years	
   we	
   may	
   see	
   a	
   resurgence	
   in	
   home	
   (EU)-­‐grown	
   sustainably	
  
produced	
  fruit	
  and	
  vegetables.	
  Individual	
  households,	
  where	
  they	
  have	
  access	
  to	
  
land,	
  will	
  almost	
  certainly	
  increasingly	
  “grow	
  their	
  own”	
  as	
  a	
  result	
  of	
  rising	
  food	
  
prices	
   and	
   problems	
   with	
   unreliable	
   food	
   supply.	
   Increasingly,	
   we	
   will	
   see	
   a	
  
closure	
   of	
   the	
   food	
   cycle,	
   with	
   waste	
   being	
   recycled	
   as	
   fertiliser	
   or	
   feed	
   for	
  
animals	
   such	
   as	
   chickens	
   or	
   cultured	
   fish.	
  Cereals	
  will	
  be	
  produced	
   in	
  the	
   familiar	
  
intensive	
  way	
  but	
  with	
  an	
  increased	
  reliance	
  on	
  high	
  technology	
  to	
  optimise	
  the	
  
use	
  of	
  fertilisers	
  and	
   pesticides.	
  This	
   is	
   not	
  simply	
   driven	
   by	
  a	
   green	
  agenda	
   but	
  
will	
   be	
   forced	
   by	
   the	
   increased	
   cost	
   of	
   production	
   of	
   such	
   chemicals	
   through	
  
soaring	
   energy	
   costs.	
   Rice	
   will	
   largely	
   disappear	
   from	
   western	
   diets	
   because	
   of	
  
huge	
   demand	
   and	
   price	
   in	
   Asia	
   and	
  decreasing	
   yields	
   because	
   of	
   the	
   requirement	
  
of	
  this	
  crop	
  for	
  large	
  quantities	
  of	
  water.	
  

Meat	
  is	
  incredibly	
  resource	
  intensive	
  to	
  produce;	
  a	
  single	
  kg	
  of	
  beef	
  requires	
  7kg	
  
of	
  grain	
  to	
  produce	
  and	
  14t	
  of	
  water.	
  This	
  figure	
  falls	
  to	
  4kg	
  for	
  pork	
  and	
  2kg	
  for	
  
poultry.	
  As	
  food	
  prices	
  increase	
  and	
  supplies	
  become	
  more	
   uncertain,	
  there	
   will	
  
certainly	
  be	
  a	
  shift	
  away	
  from	
   red	
  meat	
   in	
   the	
  diet.	
  By	
   2050	
  we	
  are	
  likely	
   to	
   be	
  
eating	
   beef	
   and	
   pork	
   as	
   luxury	
   items	
   for	
   special	
   occasions.	
   We	
   will	
   also	
   eat	
   less	
  
poultry	
   but	
   this	
   will	
   probably	
   remain	
   a	
   regular	
   source	
   of	
   protein.	
   These	
   animals	
  
will	
  be	
  farmed	
  intensively	
  and	
  will	
  be	
  fed	
  on	
  recycled	
  materials,	
  either	
  food	
  waste	
  
or	
  other	
  forms	
  of	
  agricultural	
  or	
  animal	
  wastes.	
  Organically	
  produced	
  free-­‐range	
  
poultry	
   will	
   again	
   be	
   a	
   luxury	
   item	
   because	
   of	
   the	
   use	
   of	
   land	
   to	
   raise	
   such	
  
animals	
   will	
   be	
   hard	
   to	
   justify	
   given	
   elevated	
   prices	
   of	
   grains	
   and	
   other	
   plant	
  
crops.	
  Wild-­‐caught	
  fish	
  will	
  have	
  largely	
  disappeared	
  from	
  our	
  diets,	
  so	
  no	
  more	
  
tuna,	
   mackerel,	
   cod	
   and	
   such	
   like.	
   The	
   aquaculture	
   industry	
   will	
   also	
   be	
   moving	
  
away	
   from	
   salmonids	
   and	
   other	
   predatory	
   marine	
   species,	
   many	
   of	
   which	
   are	
  
now	
   fed	
   on	
   wild-­‐caught	
   fish.	
   Instead	
   aquaculture	
   will	
   concentrate	
   on	
   shellfish	
  
(mussels,	
   oysters	
   etc.)	
   where	
   marine	
   and	
   estuarine	
   systems	
   are	
   still	
   sufficiently	
  
safe	
   for	
   such	
   activities.	
   Freshwater	
   fish	
   species	
   that	
   feed	
   on	
   plants	
   or	
  
recycled/waste	
   material	
   will	
   increasingly	
   appear	
   on	
   our	
   menus,	
   so	
   look	
   out	
   for	
  
carp	
   in	
   your	
   local	
   restaurant.	
   It	
   is	
   also	
   likely	
   that	
   algal	
   culture	
   for	
   production	
   of	
  
fuels	
   and	
   perhaps	
   even	
   protein	
   will	
   have	
   become	
   a	
   significant	
   industry	
   by	
   this	
  
time.	
  

It	
  is	
  almost	
  certain	
  that	
  genetically	
  modified	
  organisms	
  will	
  have	
  to	
  become	
  a	
  part	
  
of	
   the	
   agricultural	
   system.	
   The	
   resistance	
  to	
   the	
   adoption	
   of	
   such	
   technologies	
  in	
  
the	
   1990s	
   will	
   be	
   regarded	
   as	
   a	
   luxury	
   that	
   can	
   no	
   longer	
   be	
   supported	
   by	
   the	
  
state	
   of	
   the	
   world’s	
   food	
   resources.	
   GMO	
   cereals	
   and	
   even	
   animals	
   will	
   be	
  
commonplace	
  in	
  our	
  foods.	
  

Given	
  all	
  of	
  this,	
  our	
   diets	
  will	
  change,	
  and	
  in	
  some	
   ways	
   we	
  will	
   benefit	
  from	
  a	
  
lower	
   intake	
   of	
   calories	
   and	
   saturated	
   fats.	
   However,	
   we	
   will	
   see	
   a	
   significant	
  
reduction	
   in	
   food	
   choice	
   and	
   an	
   increasing	
   proportion	
   of	
   our	
   earnings	
   going	
   to	
  
pay	
   for	
   food.	
   Elsewhere	
   in	
   the	
   world,	
   people	
   will	
   not	
   be	
   so	
   lucky.	
   Soaring	
   food	
  
prices	
  and	
  insecure	
  supplies	
  of	
  food	
  will	
  lead	
  to	
  an	
  increase	
  in	
  malnutrition.	
  We	
  
see	
  evidence	
  of	
  this	
  already;	
  since	
   the	
  1990s	
  the	
  number	
  of	
  malnourished	
   people	
  
actually	
   increased	
   from	
   842	
   million	
   to	
   over	
   a	
   billion	
   in	
   recent	
   years,	
   despite	
   an	
  
increase	
   in	
   food	
   production.	
   A	
   lack	
   of	
   investment	
   in	
   general	
   infrastructure	
   will	
  
mean	
  that	
   many	
  of	
  the	
  world’s	
  major	
  killer	
  diseases,	
  especially	
  those	
  associated	
  
with	
   poor	
  sanitation	
  and	
  water	
  supply	
  will	
  increase	
  their	
   toll	
  on	
   the	
  populations	
  
of	
  developing	
  countries.	
  Intensive	
  farming	
  of	
  animals,	
  especially	
  poultry,	
  and	
  the	
  
continued	
   use	
   of	
   antibiotics	
   in	
   such	
   operations	
   will	
   lead	
   to	
   increased	
   levels	
   of	
  
food-­‐borne	
   pathogenic	
   disease,	
   such	
   as	
   Salmonella	
   or	
   Campylobacter	
   and	
   a	
  
massively	
   increased	
   risk	
   of	
   global	
   pandemics,	
   the	
   latter	
   threatening	
   all	
   human	
  
societies.	
  Dwindling	
  natural	
  resources,	
  such	
  as	
  water,	
  and	
  an	
  inability	
  to	
  stabilise	
  
regions	
   of	
   the	
  world	
   that	
   suffer	
   from	
  poor	
   governance	
  will	
  lead	
   to	
   a	
  world	
  that	
  is	
  
less	
   safe	
   and	
   increasing	
   levels	
   of	
   conflict	
   which	
   will	
   threaten	
   food	
   supplies	
   and	
  
supplies	
  of	
  fuel	
  and	
  raw	
  materials.	
  

In	
   many	
  respects,	
   such	
   a	
   gloomy	
  picture	
   could	
   be	
  dramatically	
   improved	
   if	
   action	
  
is	
   taken	
   now	
   at	
   all	
   levels	
   of	
   society	
   to	
   alter	
   the	
   current	
   trajectory	
   that	
   human	
  
society	
  is	
  on.	
  In	
  many	
  cases,	
  such	
  as	
  the	
  global	
  problem	
  of	
  overfishing,	
  we	
  know	
  
all	
   the	
   solutions	
   and	
   have	
   the	
   capacity	
   to	
   implement	
   them	
   at	
   a	
   relatively	
   small	
  
cost	
  compared	
  to	
  the	
  potential	
  gains.	
  Business	
  interests,	
  lack	
  of	
  political	
  will	
  and	
  
public	
  apathy	
  and	
  lack	
  of	
  education	
  currently	
  inhibit	
  the	
  changes	
  that	
  have	
  to	
  be	
  
made.	
  

For	
  our	
  children	
  to	
  inherit	
  a	
  wrecked	
  planet,	
  all	
  we	
  have	
  to	
  do	
  is	
  nothing....	
  

								
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