Sunday, January 16, 2011

Feeding the 9 Billion: Rational Optimism

From 'The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves'

"Bad harvests in Russia and Australia, combined with rising oil prices, have begun to cause shortages, export bans and even riots. Does starvation loom?No"

"A few years ago environmentalists argued that fertiliser would soon run short, because it is made using natural gas, a fossil fuel. But the discovery of how to extract abundant shale gas has turned that argument on its head: there are probably many decades' worth of natural gas now available to make fertilizer."

"There are high-tech changes afoot too. Maize and rice that have been genetically modified to resist pests and use less water, soybeans with better amino acid balance for pig food, wheat that can resist rust - all these are coming. Benighted Europe may reject these GM crops for superstitious reasons but surely not for long. The environmental benefits alone are now stark: GM crops can be pest resistant without the use of sprays that kill harmless insect bystanders."

"For all these reasons food production will probably continue to rise faster than population in the decades long as trade is free and innovation flourishes, by 2050 it is easily possible that we can feed nine billion people with more and better food from less land."

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