by Devinder Sharma in Ground Reality
I must acknowledge that I had never heard his name before nor have I ever read him. Likewise, I am sure he has never heard of me. That’s fair enough.
What drew my attention was the heat generated at the Oxford Farming Conference. Speaking at the conference, Lynas was quoted as saying “research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggested the World will require 100 per cent more food to feed the maximum projected population adequately..” This is a common argument that has been doing the rounds ever since the first GM tomato was released in the market.
Well, what population projections are we talking of? The planet today hosts 7 billion plus people, and all estimates point to a population of 9 billion in 2050.
Now, let us look at how much food is available. Only a day before I looked at the USDA calculations. It annually prepares what is called as World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates. If you read the 2012 estimates (here is the link: http://www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/wasde/latest.pdf) it tells us clearly that in 2012 the world harvested 2239.4 million metric tonnes, enough to feed 13 billion people at 1 pound per day. And what is the population projection for the year 2099 that the National Academy of Sciences made? I am not aware. But there is certainly no reason to worry about 2099, and instead let’s look at the year 2050, which is much closer and realistic. In other words, even at present the world produces enough to meet the food demand that is expected in 2050 and I am sure has enough for the turn of the century (even if the global population touches 13 billion by 2099).
In other words, the world food production today is good enough for double the present population. So where is the crisis on the food front? Aren’t we scaring people unnecessarily or with an ulterior motive?
The real problem no one wants to address is the problem associated with food management, its access and distribution. It is true that while the West is overfed (because of the conversion through animal protein), much of the developing world remains hungry. While one part of the world is eating more, the rest of the world is left to starve. What makes it still worse is that more than a third of the food that is produced every year goes waste. In United States, Canada and Europe, 40 per cent food is wasted. For example, Americans waste $ 165 billion worth of food every year. Food wasted in Italy, if saved, can feed the entire population of hungry in Ethiopia. (See my article: The wastage myth. http://www.deccanherald.com/content/289771/wastage-myth.html).
It doesn’t require any ‘discovery of science’ to know where the real problem lies, Mr Mark Lynas. The problem is not with food production. The problem is, as I said earlier, on the distribution front. If the world were to save the food that is going waste, and distribute it judiciously, we would probably have enough food available every year to meet the needs of the population in the mid of the next century. The international leadership as well as the biotech industry should instead put all their efforts in cutting down on food wastage. And believe me, this will keep a cap on global warming, and also help in restricting any further damage to the soils, water and the environment.
Additional Reading: Do GM Crops Increase Yield? The Answer is No.