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UN Calls For Major Shift In Agriculture To Feed World In 2050

Desert of green – corn

An alarming new report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calls for a 70% jump in world agricultural production, if it is to feed the world’s population in 2050.

The UN FAO is calling for a paradigmatic shift to more sustainable farming practices, as intensive industrial-based farming of the past fifty years has degraded soils, depleted water reserves, and increased environmental pollution.

Most of this environmental degradation caused by agriculture can be linked back to the “Green Revolution.” The Green Revolution is often heralded as an achievement in increasing food supply by maximizing crop production. And indeed, it did manage to save an estimated 1 billion people from starvation while kick-starting Asian economies. However, its intensive use of fertilizers, pesticides, and specialized crop production has slowly degraded the land on which it relies.

Now, the future of world food production is in question.

In response, the UN FAO calls for a more “ecosystem based” farming approach rather than the chemically intensive approach initiated by the Green Revolution. Such an approach would require reducing ploughing, alternating cereals with soil improving crops, and introducing improved seeds to save water. It should be noted, however, that the improved seeds need not be genetically modified. A recent article in the New York Times suggests that traditional breeding techniques can yield the best seeds in a warming planet.

So, what should we make of the latest news by the FAO?

The latest UN FAO report reveals yet another sign that we are reaching the Earth’s natural limits. If we are to arrive at a reasonably habitable planet in forty years, we must leave behind old 20th century businesses practices. These practices were predicated on cheap fossil fuel consumption and abundant natural resources.

The focus was on quick profits in the “now” rather than paving the way for a sustainable future. They may have been viable forms of development back when the population was 1 billion, but with a projected 9.2 billion human inhabitants in 2050, we need to seriously reassess the trajectory of our current development.

First of all, this means factoring the value of natural ecosystems into economic models and incorporating future environmental degradation into how we do business currently. But secondly, it requires incorporating the developing world in decision-making, since they will be the hardest hit by climate change and food insecurity in the world to come.

Image CC licensed by kamstrup: Desert of Green

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4PX73I2NA5SR7KVI2KU7V4TWRE Gary R.

    I think that the only path to a sustainable future is class warfare. I hope not but our current direction seems to be heading that way.  The rich and famous will not give up their lifestyle willingly and for a future that is sustainable they will have to give up their fortunes.
    There can be no hoarding or excesses like we have now when our resources are low, it’s either going to be caring for your neighbor or war with your neighbor it will be our choice. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4PX73I2NA5SR7KVI2KU7V4TWRE Gary R.

    BTW we care by taking care of the resources treating them as if they were important to life (which they are) instead of wasting them for the temporary desire for wealth. This is the ultimate in the few benefiting over the many. We all enjoy the seemingly unlimited resources but when they become scarce it will be those few who made the fortunes off of the sale of our resources that will have access to them they will be surrounded by the millitary with you and I looking in from the cold.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4PX73I2NA5SR7KVI2KU7V4TWRE Gary R.

    I believe we are seeing this play out right before our eyes. Our society is run by the highest bidders. Over 70% of the population wants to see a balanced approach to the debt ceiling increase and yet the Republicans refuse to listen to the majority of the population. I believe that they realize now after we did virtually nothing after Wall street raped us and then received payment for their troubles. They are using our passivity to take away our freedoms and they are continuing to rape us by cutting education, privatizing everything (selling off our future) eroding our privacy and rights and continuing to lower taxes on the rich (do you  really wonder who is in charge).
    I have to say that dictatorship may not be far behind if we don’t come together.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4PX73I2NA5SR7KVI2KU7V4TWRE Gary R.

    I only say republicans because they make it obvious by their stances on issues, a large number of rich folks are scared to death of being without and nearly all politicians are wealthy.  John McCain gave a speech once were he repeated 3 times that migrant farm-workers made 50 dollars an hour and said that Americans wouldn’t do the work for the entire season. I would do any kind of dirty job (as long as it was legal) for $50 an hour. It was a mistake on his part to be sure, but how could he keep saying it.
    I would have noticed it in my own speech very quickly and would not have repeated it. I wonder are they so far removed from the common man that they don’t really understand what we are going through.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4PX73I2NA5SR7KVI2KU7V4TWRE Gary R.

    I want to say that we as a nation should be angry about the use of economic slaves that supply us with everything we use. In a lot of countries right this moment their are millions of people working 10 to 12 hours a day getting paid $5 dollars a day and living in what amounts to shacks. The products sold from their backs are the most profitable and the major reason that corporations (the few) are making record profits despite a bad economy all over the world.  I say the test should be would you allow your child to work under the same conditions so that a few could benefit so highly. The other problem of-coarse is when you create a product (like we do with most of everything we use) overseas and sell it here then that is jobs we don’t have here and a good part of why we have the problems we have, but the rich like money and wont give up this cash cow without a fight. Their isn’t anyone in Washington talking about fixing the problem of job loss to other countries, but we should all know that China wouldn’t be were they are today without the US and I know that only a few truly benefited off of this treason of the last 30 years.

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