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Biotech Earth Science Technology

A Look At the World's Dwindling Food Supply 570

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-don't-eat-greens,-food-eats-greens dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The UK's Government Office of Science has released a report titled 'The Future of Food and Farming' which takes a look at, among other related concerns, how to continue to feed a global population that is on pace to reach 9 billion by the year 2050. 'The report calls for more innovation to increase production. That means using the potential benefits of GM crops and other biotech approaches, although these won't be a cure-all. There's room for improvement on the consumption end, too, as 30 percent of food never makes it into a human stomach; in the developed world, we let produce slowly rot in the backs of our fridges, and the in developing world, farm wastage causes a similar problem. ... Rising energy prices influence food security, with a correlation between food price and oil price that has become stronger over time, first increasing food production costs, and later by encouraging the diversion of food stocks into biofuel production.'"
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A Look At the World's Dwindling Food Supply

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  • by preaction (1526109) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:22AM (#35569070)

    When 30% of our food doesn't even get eaten?

    • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:27AM (#35569100) Homepage Journal
      Ritchie, eat your crust!
      • by davester666 (731373) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @03:56AM (#35569556) Journal

        No, we need GM seeds from Monsanto.

        With them, we can save the world.

        And Monsanto from not making their number's this quarter.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by darkpixel2k (623900)

      When 30% of our food doesn't even get eaten?

      Or when you can drive for something like 6 hours through Nevada and see nothing but empty land that could be used for farming...

      • by Edmund Blackadder (559735) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:51AM (#35569258)

        I have never seen any land on nevada that can be used for farming. Remember for farming you need (1) cheap and plentiful water and (2) high quality soil.

        • by EdIII (1114411) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @04:06AM (#35569594)

          That's assuming a traditional means of farming.

          If you were to build advanced green houses out in the middle of nowhere with plentiful sunlight (Nevada) you could lose very little water (high efficiency) and grow some crops year round. Not to mention that pests are far more manageable inside green houses (segregation of units) and you don't get seed piracy (Monsanto contaminating your crops then claiming you stole from them). That and some crops can be grown hydroponically to great heights which does not require high quality soil at all. Just shipments of chemicals. Considering the railways that go through Nevada there isn't a reason to not put something like that out there.

          Ohhh.. and we don't have to limit it to food either. Some really good biofuel technologies using algae could be grown vertically several hundred feet up in the air in greenhouses. We could generate a buttload of fuel and energy.

          It's technology. We have it.

          We lack the political will power to do so. It's far easier just to keep subsidizing the farmers (popular activity to get votes) and destroy food then it is to really really really think about how to grow food intelligently.

          Of course.... it's also far far cheaper in the case of herbs (which was popular for a minute to grow in greenhouses) to just import it from other countries no differently then we import cheap crap from China.

          The thing that kills me is how much space we have with plentiful water and access to high quality soil that we NEVER use. It's called our backyards. Even the apartment I am living in right now has a 10x10 foot patio on the 2nd floor. I plan on setting up a small greenhouse and growing some herbs and vegetables.

          We all have (with the exception of really high density cities) the ability to grow some of our own food. This would benefit us in so many ways:

          - Increased seed diversity. Fight against companies like Monsanto that want to own all the seed in the world.
          - Increased self sufficiency. Actually know how to grow some shit other than potheads growing pot. That ain't farming considering it grows like a "weed".
          - Healthier food. None of that evil GMO shit or vegetables that are sprayed with chemicals and grown in bad crap.
          - Healthier lifestyles. If you are actually growing those herbs and vegetables you are more than likely going to be EATING them. That means we are putting less processed food and crappy chemicals into our bodies. That can't be a bad thing.
          - Stronger nation through stronger and more resilient citizenry. If we are all growing a little bit of food we are far more able to adapt to natural/unnatural disasters. Sure it might suck not being able to get your favorite curry sauce or a bottle of ketchup... but you can actually live off vegetables and a bowl or rice a day. Billions of people prove that every single day.

          No offense, but your thinking just illustrates why we so dependent on centralized processes that we don't understand and how our entire country from the ground up is built on a house of cards.

          We are so weak right now it's scary and we can't talk about it. We are progressively more ignorant, violent, and unable to think. If the shit hit the fan tomorrow 90% of the US population would FUBAR. Unable to maintenance anything, unable to grow food, unable to survive without the fragile infrastructure we have.

          Sorry.. I have to laugh hysterically right now. Just a few weeks ago I saw a study that showed the US is 23rd in the % of GNP put toward infrastructure. We are 50% below average.

          Of course you would think we can't grow food out in the middle of Nevada. We can't even find the money to fix the fucking roads and bridges and railways that actually made this country what it is.

          No. No. No. All that stuff is expensive and costs too much money. It's too hard. We don't know how and can't figure out how.

          Meanwhile we spend trillions on bailing out the Military Industrial Complex, paying Blackwater mercs billions to murder people in o

          • by fritsd (924429)
            I think you'd make a good Imperial Planetologist [wikipedia.org] :-)
          • The food we eat is oil.

            Farming is hugely energy intensive, you think it's just the sun?

            Fertilisers, machinery use large amounts of oil and gas. Never mind the amount of water that is required.

            The reason Malthus was wrong, is cheap energy. It has allowed us to expand our agriculture in line with exponentially growing population. Well, oil peaked in 2005. Which means less energy in the future. It's possible that means fewer people.

            Nuclear has the promise to provide large amounts of cheap energy, i.e. large en

          • by mangu (126918)

            If you were to build advanced green houses out in the middle of nowhere with plentiful sunlight (Nevada) you could lose very little water (high efficiency) and grow some crops year round

            Back to reality now: how much would it cost to cover Nevada with glass, or whatever material you use in your greenhouses?

            Greenhouses are for luxury items, an alternative to transportation from distant lands. They will not solve mass starvation problems.

        • by TubeSteak (669689)

          I have never seen any land on nevada that can be used for farming. Remember for farming you need (1) cheap and plentiful water and (2) high quality soil.

          If they can turn desert into golf courses, there is enough water and soil to grow something edible.

    • > Why do we need more efficiency

      Because 30% is currently wasted.

    • by TheLink (130905) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:55AM (#35569282) Journal

      The other big wastage is "bycatch": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bycatch [wikipedia.org]

      Shrimp trawl fisheries catch 2% of the world total catch of all fish by weight, but produce more than one-third of the world total bycatch. American shrimp trawlers produce bycatch ratios between 3:1 (3 bycatch:1 shrimp) and 15:1(15 bycatch:1 shrimp).[6]

      They found discard rates (bycatch to catch ratios) as high as 20:1 with a world average of 5.7:1.[5]

      Basically for every ton of shrimp caught worldwide, 5.7 tons of other stuff caught is discarded (and usually dead or good as dead by that time).

      And the sad thing is it's scientifically proven that humans thrive on diets that contain certain oceanic fish. We won't do so well if they go extinct.

      Stories about "dwindling food supply" and GM the "saviour" are mostly propaganda by GM companies to serve their agenda (to make them rich, get them favourable laws etc). There is still clearly enough food in the world. The number 1 reason people starve is politics.

      • by 517714 (762276)

        There is still clearly enough food in the world.

        With 9 billion people in 2050 the state of the food supply in 2011 will not be particularly relevant.

        GM hybrid rice promises to increase 15% beyond the best variety currently available. The modification is pretty benign, the male flower is sterile so self pollination does not occur, and a hybrid can be generated. GM does not automatically mean bad, but there are a number of transgenic ones that are dubious value.

        • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @06:27AM (#35570092)

          GM hybrid rice promises to increase 15% beyond the best variety currently available. The modification is pretty benign, the male flower is sterile so self pollination does not occur, and a hybrid can be generated. GM does not automatically mean bad, but there are a number of transgenic ones that are dubious value.

          I never got this fascination with rice. All in all its a pretty poor staple foodstuff. What you want are potatoes, which contain most of the vitamins and minerals you need to stay alive. Indeed, people have thrived on just potatoes and milk, maybe with an odd egg or fish thrown in. Also the volume of food produced per area planted is enormous, and there should be zero problem with blight in this day and age. Then there's the way they are actually tasty - mashed potatoes, french fries, potato salad, waffles, its a neverending cascade of deliciousness. :D

          • by nanoflower (1077145) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:24AM (#35570370)
            You have to realize that for much of the world rice is a major part of their diet. So it's easier to improve the quality of rice produced than it is to change their diet by getting them to move from eating rice to eating potatoes.
          • by 517714 (762276) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:27AM (#35570394)

            Fully 50% of the world's population depends on rice as their primary source of calories. They do not do it because they are stupid or they are fascinated by it.

            In Vietnam [fao.org] they get 6.14 tonnes/hectare for potatoes and only 3.9 tonnes/hectare with rice

            Rice has 4.8 times as many calories as potatoes by weight so it produces 3 times as many calories from the same piece of land. So they could plant 2/3 of their cropland with other crops to makeup for the nutritional deficiencies of rice and still have more calories and a more varied diet than if they planted only potatoes. Potatoes are great in the Andes where rice wouldn't grow, but otherwise rice or another grain win handily.

      • Ask yourself what shrimp feed on, then consider the motivation for shrimp farmers to throw back large numbers of dead fish right on top of their favorite locations.

    • by Malc (1751)

      Because that's not enough, and also not so severe in the places that are growing the fastest. The Economist also ran a special report on this recently. There are other factors such as yields not rising fast enough, destruction of habitats, increasing dependence on poor soils, or diets become more meat heavy (requires more energy and water to produce). And as demand closes on supply, we become less able to cope with a crop failure in a major producer of a staple, which will cause price shocks. Increasing

    • by fredmosby (545378)
      Because when you have a problem it's always a good idea to look at all the possible solutions.
    • by Malc (1751)

      Of course I didn't RTFA, but of that 30% that doesn't reach our stomaches, how much is being diverted to keep things like our cars running (e.g. converted to ethanol)?

    • When 30% of our food doesn't even get eaten?

      Because 70% efficiency isn't very good.

    • by mapkinase (958129) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:20AM (#35569836) Homepage Journal

      Poor underpaid biologists in Russia and other countries working to restore reproduction capabilities of GM grains.

      Or, if you will, jailbreaking the grains, unlocking the genes, replacing them with the original version.

      It should be much easier than research at Monsanto _adding_ new functions to genes.

  • Take a look at any documentary about food production. You will see a sizable portion of the food go to waste. Ever watched how corn gets stripped from the cob? I'd wager a good 10-20% of waste here alone (and we're not even talking about any other point of the production process, just the part where the corn grain gets stripped from the cob, nothing else. You will notice something similar during flour production.

    Sure, quite some of it will be recycled and used for something else. Still, we're talking about

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:43AM (#35569196)

      Particularly since there is no problem in the industrial world. Countries with a stable political system, modern infrastructure and so on do not have problems producing enough food. I'm not saying every nation stands as an island and produces everything it consumes, but collectively they can produce not just enough food, but far more than is needed. No problem at all.

      The problem is in less developed nations. Particularly it is a problem in ones with unstable and/or inefficient governments. Zimbabwe is a wonderful example. Used to produce plenty for export, now requires food aid. There was no ecological disaster, just a dictator who doesn't care or understand.

      So if you are talking about food problems where they actually exist on a global scale, which is what this seems to be talking about, the the problem is not one of "How can we grow enough food?" it is "How can we get people to stop killing each other and destroying the infrastructure used to grow food?"

      If we had a world where all nations were doing a reasonably efficient job of this, and we still had shortages, or were coming up on shortages, then it would be a different problem. But that is not the case at all.

      So unless this report is talking about coming problems for developed countries, if it is saying that in the US and Europe shortages are going to start developing unless there's new technology, then I'm calling BS and like you thinking there is an ulterior motive.

      Now none of that is to say that more efficiency is a bad thing. Use less, have more, it is a basic principle of life. However let's be real about what the problem is we are talking about and thus what would need to be done to solve it.

    • by Osty (16825) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:51AM (#35569256)

      Take a look at any documentary about food production. You will see a sizable portion of the food go to waste. Ever watched how corn gets stripped from the cob? I'd wager a good 10-20% of waste here alone (and we're not even talking about any other point of the production process, just the part where the corn grain gets stripped from the cob, nothing else. You will notice something similar during flour production.

      A quick search would've provided you with links to back up your data, or to refute it. For example: [tennessee.edu]

      Some of the major factors that affect the quality of combining operations include: weather, skill of the operator, conditions of the field and crop, adjustment and condition of the combine, speed of forward travel, width of combine header, feed rate of the material through the combine, variety of crop, type of combine and the attachments used.

      Mentioned elsewhere in the article, ideal efficiency is 3% loss, with averages "closer to" 10% (implying the range is probably more like 5-15% loss rather than 10-20% loss). And don't think farmers aren't keenly aware of this and will do just about anything to increase their yields. These are machines that cost the equivalent of a nice house in most places ($250,000 on average) and if there's a newer model with higher efficiency then most farmers will trade up to the latest and greatest. Even a small increase in efficiency over several years could cover the cost of the equipment.

      I've said it before and I'll say it again -- farming is one of the most advanced areas for technology, biology, chemistry, etc. These are not slack-jawed yokels trotting behind horses. Even the average family farmer works > 1000 acres with only 1 or 2 people and has technology the rest of us have only dreamed of. GPS when it was otherwise only available to military and government applications, satellite maps, sophisticated data collection sensors to track yields, self-driving vehicles, market tracking tools that rival anything wall street brokers can think up, etc. Of course it's also a metric pantload of physical labor, long hours, and a livelihood that is directly affected and threatened by "acts of god" the rest of us would completely ignore (a hail shower might dent your car and cost you $500 in repairs, but it could ruin a farmer's entire crop and cost him $100,000 or more).

    • I suspect the entire corn plant is edible. Seeing as most of us need more fiber and less sugar/starch, the leaves may well be the better part to eat.

      All of a broccoli plant is edible. All of a carrot or beet plant is edible, both leaves and root. Grape leaves, banana leaves, sweet potato leaves...

      If I don't eat the whole plant, am I wasting food?

      If I pick the insects out of my vegetables, am I wasting food? The insects are high in protein. How about a blood-filled mosquito that I swat?

      If I don't eat the bon

  • obvious (Score:3, Interesting)

    by countertrolling (1585477) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:26AM (#35569096) Journal

    desalination..

    All the problems are political. There are no technical obstacles that haven't been overcome.

    • Sure, that will get you fresh water to setup additional farms with. But where do you get the energy to run the desalinization plant, given that desalinization requires oodles of power?

      Ultimately all the world's resource shortages can be solved by the application of energy in some manner. But to get there you first need cheap, limitless energy. Until then, the resources we have to work with are a function of the amount of energy we have and how much we're willing to pay for the resulting product. Which is on

      • But where do you get the energy to run the desalinization plant, given that desalinization requires oodles of power?

        1) Look up..
        2) We don't need to run a plant. The planet does it for us. All we have to do is gather it up and transport it wherever we want. Some novel ideas are needed for the gathering process out in the oceans, but pipelines aren't an issue. And neither is a small amount of leakage.

        The problem remains strictly a matter of choice. Resources and tech are there. But the speculators have other

        • by 517714 (762276)

          All we have to do...

          Words which invariably precede ill-conceived ideas. Pipelines consume materials and energy to construct and maintain, energy to operate and, as you say, you haven't actually worked out the collection issue or addressed the environmental issues created.

        • by thegarbz (1787294)
          Desalination consumes a lot of energy, but not near as much as long distance pumping of large volumes of water. There's only a few cases of green desalination plants around the world. These desalination plants have entire wind farms powering them. Farms! Not a windmill, but entire farms. Desalination requirements are measured in the 10s of kW per cubic meter of production. If you ever thought your water bill was high try running a farm when its primary resource costs 5 times higher than normal, more if the
  • by virb67 (1771270) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:40AM (#35569182)
    Malthusian scaremongering.
  • by ibsteve2u (1184603) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:40AM (#35569186)
    ...the hydrocarbons for use in plastics and fertilizer...
  • by kitsunewarlock (971818) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:44AM (#35569204) Journal
    If more people cooked their own food they'd have not only a better appreciation of it and be more likely to eat everything they made (and eat healthier), but would save money and stop the wasteful practices of many prefab food companies. I know a lot of these companies sell their excess food to one another (or use it in other products), but I wouldn't be surprised if a majority of the "30% waste" is on the developer's end, not the consumers.
  • by gnalle (125916) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:48AM (#35569234)

    Ten years ago critics were worried that EU's agricultural support forced African farmers to give up on farming. Now we are worried that the rising food prices force African farmers to buy food from abroad. That confuses me.

    Perhaps the problem is price fluctuations. A poor farmer cannot afford to invest in better production methods, because he cannot afford to risk bankrupcy. If the prices were more stable then the risks would be lower.

    • by Halo1 (136547)

      Ten years ago critics were worried that EU's agricultural support forced African farmers to give up on farming. Now we are worried that the rising food prices force African farmers to buy food from abroad. That confuses me.

      The EU subsidies allowed EU farmers to export produce to Africa at dumping prices, putting local food farmers out of business. Those farmers then had to switch to economically more interesting products, such as coffee and tobacco. This kind of farming is often also practiced in an exhaustive way and at much larger scales (it doesn't make sense to produce much more food that you can locally sell, but if you can get a larger share of the world tobacco/coffee/tea/cotton/... market, you can make more profit --

  • GM foods (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Datamonstar (845886) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @02:51AM (#35569260)
    The answer is not GM foods, as much as I love technology,we just haven't been able able to solve our other problems, like greedy ass, unethical corporations. Greed is the reason people don't get to eat, not any failing of technology or logistics. I haven't finished this article yet, but so far it pretty much seems like a scare tactic plea for the acceptance of GM foods and cloning so that mega-corp monopolies like Monsanto can can keep on raking in the dough. 10 pages in and it's basically only said, in a nutshell, that funding the research of new technology is the only answer to the growing problem of food shortages. Asking for money, asking for deregulation.
    • by definate (876684) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @03:43AM (#35569496)

      Greed is a retarded concept, and can be more accurately replaced by fear.

      You fear losing a job, you fear being reliant on your neighbouring countries/states/etc, so you pressure your politicians.
      Your politicians fear losing their job, politicians fear being seen negatively, so they enact measures which "protect" your jobs and food sources.
      Then the price of food goes up for you, and your neighbour.

      Here's where it gets tricky.

      If you're in a poor country:
      This price increase hurts, you yell louder at your politicians, they enact more policies, they appeal to the greater international community, and you get aide, subsidized food, etc.
      These policies/subsidies/aide drive the price of food down, and reduces the local incentive to produce.
      The result is a feedback loop, until you've destroyed your economy, and created immense famine.

      If you're in a rich country:
      This price increase annoys, you yell louder at your politicians, they enact more policies, and you get subsidies and tariffs.
      These policies/subsidies/tariffs drive the price of food down, and reduces the local incentive to produce.
      The result is a feedback loop, but since this is such a small sector of your economy, you likely won't feel it, you just watch the prices go up, and get annoyed at "big fat greedy corporations".
      Your price rises, are more likely to have an affect on the poorer countries which rely on you.

      The further you go, and the higher this pseudo equilibrium price becomes, the more sensitive your economy is to shocks in associated markets, so as the price of oil goes up, the price of food will also go up, and this relationship will become stronger over time.

      While this is an extreme generalization, and of course there are other factors (global warming, disasters, etc) which could be solved technologically, we know that a large proportion of the "food shortage" is structural in nature. Every time I read a well researched paper on this, it always comes to the same conclusions, and shows that this simple axiomatic break down is correct.

      I'm more than happy to pursue various food security strategies (including GM), but the first step has to be dealing with the structural problem (which I see as more of a nationalism problem), which literally could happen over night, before dealing with technical problems. Because if you don't address the structural problems, the technical solutions won't do shit.

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @03:00AM (#35569302) Journal

    Of course, the elephant in the room is, if we raise to the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050, we'll have to feed 20 billion by 2100. If we continue like that, Earth will resemble some hellish place, overpopulated, over-harvested, polluted and war-torn. (There won't be any elephants left, for that matter, in our outside of rooms.)

  • "...in the developed world, we let produce slowly rot in the backs of our fridges..."

    I don't dispute the logic of this...my own fridge, unfortunately, is a case-in-point. I wouldn't say that's where a majority of the waste is coming from, however, in more densely populated areas, it could be a significant amount (a million pennies is still ten thousand dollars, no?).

    I just pray that things don't come down to, 'Now Timmy, eat your veggies, or the Men in Black Suits are going to come and assassinate Mommy and Daddy...you wouldn't want that, now would you?', to try and curtail consumer waste

    • 'Now Timmy, eat your veggies, or the Men in Black Suits are going to come and assassinate Mommy and Daddy...you wouldn't want that, now would you?'.

      Yeah. 'Cause I know that little fucker, Timmy. He'd just say "No biggie," and toss the rest of the plate on the floor just to watch it happen. Kids these days...

  • ....Is to stop putting corn in our gas tanks. We could resume drilling for oil in the US to make up the difference.

  • Eliminating poverty (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Internetuser1248 (1787630) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @03:36AM (#35569468)
    As others have mentioned, this is clearly GM propaganda advertising. Quite apart from curbing wastage there are also subsidies in most developed companies which pay farmers for not growing crops. If there were a problem feeding the population (and it may not be at 9 bil but it will come eventually) the solution will be in curbing population growth not in creating more food. Other resources even scarcer than food like energy and clean water will be a major problem before food is. There is a clear and obvious way to rein in population growth, and no white elitists, it is not to kill off all the poor brown people. Even ignoring the ethical side of this suggestion it is still merely a temporary drop in population. We are talking about a growth problem not a numbers problem and any solution that does not curb growth is not a solution at all. Statistically richer developed countries have little to no population growth outside of immigration, and even in those countries the impoverished contribute much more to the birth rate. The statistics clearly show a connection between poverty and population growth. The key then to bringing world population growth under control is eliminating poverty. The cost of eliminating poverty [un.org] worldwide would run into the 100s of billions for a few years and would then be self sustaining. In terms of global spending for example defence spending, this is peanuts. Given the clear solutions available for the actual problem at hand, and the relative cheapness and massive cost effectiveness of those solutions, anyone who claims that this is an issue of food production is either failing to look at the big picture, or has another agenda. I can understand that the rich elites of the world don't want to give up their stranglehold on world economics, but I won't swallow this crap about it being a food problem. We have a population growth problem, which is caused by a poverty problem, prevented from solution by a greed problem.
    • not in the long term (Score:4, Interesting)

      by r00t (33219) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:05AM (#35569778) Journal

      In this supposedly non-growing population of richer people, not everybody will have 2 kids. Some will have none, and some will have a dozen.

      If family size is even slightly inheritable, natural selection takes care of the rest. Let's consider why people might have huge families.

      The mothering instinct is a big reason. It's clearly way stronger in some people than in others. It's entirely reasonable that this is an inheritable brain trait.

      Religion is another reason. The inheritable thing here is spirituality, magic thinking, and so on. The choice of religion itself is subject to some sort of "meme inheritance", with choices that demand followers to "go forth and multiply" being more successful.

      Stupidity is certainly inheritable. If you can't manage to properly use birth control...

      See where this goes? Natural selection can trivially defeat birth control. All creatures naturally are in a state of squalor, barely able to survive. Consider yourself fortunate to live during an anomaly for your species.

  • It also really doesn't help that we have vast acreage diverted to non-essential crops as well. You have corn being grown for Ethanol, and various other crops that aren't going to food or clothing or medicine.

    This when we're talking about a world population in excess of 6 billion people and increasing at roughly 10% a year.

    I'm not saying some of these research crops aren't important, or that some of the products coming off these crops aren't necessary. But when it comes down to "eat and recycle your plasti

  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @04:19AM (#35569648) Journal
    Proverbs 13:23 GNT "Unused fields could yield plenty of food for the poor, but unjust people keep them from being farmed."

    The Bible says there is enough food for all, but because of greed and bad distribution of resources, that is why people go hungry.
    We should be looking at all answers for this. It is my own personal goal in life to make money so I can redistribute it to investing at farming in poor places. It is a net loss, but I see the plight of the people dying because of malnutrition. When I went to Carnegie Mellon, my goal was to learn how to cure diseases by helping write software, but I never got a chance to. So since I can't be helping cure diseases on my life, I see people who die to malnutrition as a group of people who can benefit right now without discovering a new cure. At the rawest form, you can buy someone food directly so they don't die to malnutrition, but not many of us are wealthy enough to help them all. There are more advanced solutions to helping them in the long term such as buying fruit trees for them, or micro loans to start a farm,etc,etc. It is complex, but it should be everyone's fight.
  • by mirix (1649853) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:16AM (#35569822)

    Fortunately, we will have nuclear winter before 2050.
    Although much of the land will no longer be arable, the remaining few chosen ones who get to survive the apocalypse will have plenty of canned goods to go around.

    As a side curiosity, when you have a can of beans that says: "EXP JUL 2016", what condition will it be in a year past that? 5 years past that? 10?

    Perhaps we need to focus on the real issue here, developing more foods that are shelf stable for a century or two. Not feeding nine billion people.

  • I dont know how, but we need to control the human population because resources are finite.

    Earth can only support so much.

  • Hmmm, where have I heard these apocalyptic stories before?... I bet it's different this time.. it always is, they promise!

    "Population, when unchecked, increases in a geometrical ratio. Subsistence only increases in an arithmetical ratio. A slight acquaintance with numbers will show the immensity of the first power compared to the second" - Thomas Malthus, 1978 in his "An Essay on the Principle of Population"

    "The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines. Hundreds
  • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:32AM (#35570424)

    Seriously. Just stop. All too often I hear things such as people wanting to have kids (why not adopt?) or people who have kids in poorer countries because of their poor living conditions (which is no excuse). I don't see how their wants should somehow override the importance of keeping population growth in check. I'd say that education is the key. Even in 'developed' countries, there are many, many people who need to be educated in this subject (it's not something that takes years to learn, either).

  • by pinkushun (1467193) * on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:41AM (#35570478) Journal

    Read this with a scientific and practical view, just as I did writing it.

    - Soybeans can produce at least twice as much protein per acre as any other major vegetable or grain crop, [1]

    - 5 to 10 times more protein per acre than land set aside for grazing animals to make milk, [1]

    - and up to *15 times* more protein per acre than land set aside for meat production. [1]

    - soy farms _has_ encouraged Amazon deforestation [3]

    - Ninety-eight percent of soy grown in the U.S. is used for livestock feed. [2]

    Although soy has encouraged deforestation, a sad fact, this may have been avoided if consideration was given to the fact that fifteen fold more food could have been produced, if processed for human consumption, and not for cattle.

    This is a _huge_ ratio. For sake of our example, and in a most extreme case, producing meat for 9 billion people (estimated for 2050), we could be effectively be substituting that with plant protein at 9 billion mouths x 15 fold = 135 billion people fed.

    Keep in mind, scientifically, what our bodies need and don't need. I don't want a debate of morality.

    That's one extreme. For the other, even if we figure in a huge gap for the sake of example, that value halved to 67 million, is still huge. Heck, even a tenth of the possible output would able us to provide more consumable protein than we need in 2050.

    From a practical, scientific view, does this make sense?

    Naturally there are issues like infrastructure, bureaucracy, fingers-in-pies and control over industry that won't make this possible yet, but I'd like to hear your thoughts!

    [1]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soybean#cite_ref-NSRL_4-0 [wikipedia.org]
    [2]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soybean#cite_ref-britannica_26-1 [wikipedia.org]
    [3]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soybean#cite_ref-23 [wikipedia.org]

  • by unity100 (970058) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:59AM (#35571122) Homepage Journal
    Just confiscating the millions of tonnes of grain that rot in the silos because the big players keep them away from the market to prevent grain price falling too low for their comfort would suffice to feed everyone, even now.

    oh but why should we take the freedom of the big players away, even if it is at the expense of world hunger and accompanying death ... the 'market' is free to oligopolize the supply and let people die for its profit. we call this freedom.
  • Ethiopia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @09:03AM (#35571160)
    I went to Ethiopia about a year and a half ago and was staggered by the poverty. There were people everywhere begging for food or money. Yet the ground was fertile... I come from Wisconsin and I know good farmland when I see it. What were they growing? Coffee... huge swaths of land dedicated to Coffee grown for export. Next to that, the largest greenhouses I've ever seen. I was told by our guide that they were owned by the dutch who grew flowers and exported them. Lastly Teff, which is a grain that they use to make a local bread. 1 out of 3 isn't bad. Or is it?
  • by PJ6 (1151747) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @09:08AM (#35571236)
    Some populations will always grow to their absolute limit, more food is not the solution. We already have way too many people.

Testing can show the presense of bugs, but not their absence. -- Dijkstra

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