How to feed 9 billion people

Best attempt to reflect on the future of global agriculture, which I already I have taken in the course of its reporter, can be a frustrating task. Many brilliant minds have tried to treat this problem, but not many of them viewed it in a consistent manner.

Environmentalists worry mainly because of the environmental damage caused by agriculture and offer solutions, which are said to farmers, have a negative impact on food production. Conventional agronomists experience mainly because the harvest, and tend to give advice that can increase the damage to the environment.

Another is haunted first inequality of the global food system: when the "golden" one billion kills himself by eating food sverhpitatelnym, while billions of poor people are hungry and malnourished.

Can not we figure out how to fix it all at once?

Is difficult, however, encouraging developments in world agricultural policy is that someone starts trying. Now there is a new interesting piece of literature on the big decisions. This analysis by an international research team led by the Director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Minnesota Jonathan A. Foley.

Their scientific work "Solutions for the treated planet" was posted on the Internet and included in the issue of the journal Nature on 20 October. Dr. Foley also published an article in the expected next week in the November issue of the kiosks Scientific American (Russian version — "In the world of science", approx. Mixednews), which summarizes the results of the research team at the reach of a layman language.

Scientific group, as others before it, comes to the conclusion that in the coming decades the task of doubling the world's food, though with great difficulty, but it can be done. Interesting to me in the study is that it does not set the priority of any of the problems facing the food system, on the other, regarding the environment, production and equitable distribution of food are equally important and require the application to their simultaneous efforts.

"The need to feed nine billion people by truly sustainable method of production will be one of the greatest challenges facing our civilization" — says Dr. Foley in an article in Scientific American, based on the projected population by mid-century.

Many features of the new articles will be familiar to readers who track these issues. Although it is interesting to see how in a single article, this thought-food system can be expanded with an application on bricks serious numbers.

For a start, the group argues that the transfer of forests and grasslands to agricultural land is necessary to stop, damage to the environment, we are doing, cutting down the Amazon, far exceeds the small increase in food production, they say.

Further, the article states that the increase in food production should take place within the existing rural land in the process of intensification in areas with low yields, examples of which are north-eastern India, Eastern Europe, parts of South Africa, and large parts of Africa.

As found art, if these regions by using modern agricultural techniques, including fertilizer and irrigation, could provide yields for 75 percent of its well-known building, the total supply of basic food products in the world would rise by 28 percent. If yields are at a level of up to 95 percent of their capacity, close to that achieved in the developed countries, the increase in supply would have huge 58 percent.

The paper did not say this, but on my assumptions, and those and other improvements will be enough to reverse the rise in food prices that occurred in recent years.

Another important strategy outlined in the article, is to increase agricultural productivity in areas where productivity is high. If farmers in Africa need more fertilizer to farmers in the United States, they need less.

The article is essentially proved that high yields can be achieved with less chemicals and water, resulting in not only reduce pollution, but in some cases also made low cost farmers.

And in the end, the article argues that the cymbals humans should be provided more food that we grow. This means a reduction of food waste, not just those that are so common in Western cuisine, but also the huge post-harvest losses caused by poor storage conditions in poor countries.

And it also means a shift in diet from meat and dairy products, the production of which is inefficient, in the direction of plant. Probability mass conversion to vegetarianism is recognized in Article low, but at the same time it is argued that even incremental changes — for example, moving a lot of people from the less efficient beef to chicken meat — change the situation.

Article carefully avoids taking sides in the ideological war over the food system. She does not use the argument of the left is that the answer to the food supply in the world will give organic production, as well as in terms of rules that markets will solve all problems.

She also advocates the introduction of a generally accepted system of an increasing number of developing sound ideas of social movements in this area — but only if they serve three objectives — to increase food production, reduce environmental damage and improve food security.

As a scientific report, not a policy document, the work of Foley does not introduce any major new proposals, how to put it all into practice. Many observers who have studied the subject, came to the conclusion that the obstacles to this are not primarily a technical impossibility, but a lack of political will to address these problems, leading to low public investment in agriculture.

In his article, Dr. Foley still makes one intriguing offer. Pointing to a certification system that promotes "green" building construction, he asks: What about the new system of certification of sustainable food production?

Instead of the service of one of the ideological preferences of what the labeling of organic products now, the new mark would be based on a system that awards points for the public good and takes them for the environment. Food produced in accordance with best practice, would have received the highest marks, or, perhaps, the highest letter grades. If the consumer has learned it, this certification could put pressure on companies and farmers, so that they improve their production practices.

"This certification would help us penetrate the existing logos such as" local "and" organic "are not really tell us a lot about what we eat," — says Dr. Foley in Scientific American.

One can only imagine the ideological battles that unfold if this idea will be taken seriously. Although some of the necessary elements are already starting to fall into place, for example, attempts to measure the carbon footprint (the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment during production, approx. Mixednews) different foods.

If scientists could no ulterior motives to maintain control of the certification system, using it as a means of applying strict criteria for efficiency of agriculture, turning at the same time its mark in the world brand, the world would have found a powerful new tool for improving the situation of the food supply and the health of the planet .

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