Wiki Strategies to Increase the Food Supply

Issues

Whether food supply can keep pace with an expanding human population is an old question. In 1798, Thomas R. Malthus predicted that population growth would outstrip food supply, causing great human suffering. In the early 1960s, most nations were self-sufficient in food, but alarm about a rapidly growing population (~2% annually) caused many to echo Malthus' prediction. Then, the Green Revolution (high-yield crops and energy intensive agriculture) brought about remarkable increases in crop production. World grain output expanded by a factor of 2.6 from the 1950s to the 1980s. Today, per capita production has now slowed and appears to be declining.

Strategies to Increase the Supply

  • Expand the land area used for agriculture.
  • Increase the productivity of land now used for agriculture.
  • Identify new food sources.
  • Increase exports from other countries.
  • Even with these strategies there are still challenges that face them.

Land

  • The human population has increased faster than the expansion of agricultural land.
  • At first glance, new agricultural land appears to be available because only 11 percent of the world's land area is currently cultivated.
  • -Farmland is abandoned for lack of water. Especially in semiarid regions, human actions are causing land to deteriorate to desert like condition, a process called desertification.
  • Excessive crop planting, animal grazing, and tree cutting exhaust the soil's nutrients and prelude agriculture.
  • Urbanization can also contribute to reducing agricultural land.
  • As urban areas grow in population and land area, farms on the periphery are replaced by homes, roads, shops, and other urban land uses.

Productivity

  • In the past, the green revolution increased yields from crops (rice and corn) through hybrid seeds.
  • In future, GMOs may provide even higher yields.
  • But both the hybrid seeds and GMOs perform better with higher use of fertilizer, water and pesiticides as well as machinery.
  • There was also less of a loss in crops when pesticides and fertilizers were used before and after a harvest
  • The inability of African countries to be able to afford GMOs and the supplies that go with them (fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation) helps to explain why they have not taken advantage of these new techniques.

New Food Sources

  • Cultivate Oceans: Increased fish consumption could meet the needs of a rapidly growing global population. The worlds annual fish catch has increased from 22 million tons in 1954 to 100 million tons in 1991. However the population of some fishes have declined due to being harvested faster than they can reproduce.
  • Develop Higher-Protein Cereals: People in MDCs obtain protein by consuming meat, but people in LDCs generally rely on wheat, corn, rice, which lack certain proteins. People can also obtain needed nutrition by consuming foods that are fortified during processing with vitamins, minerals, and protein-carrying amino acids. However, fortification has limited application in LDCs, where most people grow their own food rather than buy processed food.
  • Improve Palatability of rarely consumed foods: People consume types of food adapted to their community's climate, soil, and other physical characteristics. People also select foods on the basis of religious values, taboos, and other social customs that are unrelated to nutritional or environmental factors. To make more effective use of existing global resources is to encourage consumption of foods that are avoided for social reasons. For example, soybean, which is one of the region's leading crops, most of the output is processed into animal feed, in part because many North Americans avoid consuming tofu, sprouts, and other recognizable soybean products. In Asia, high protein beverages made from seeds resemble popular soft drinks.

Biotechnology and Exports

USE OF BIOTECHNOLOGY IN SEED PRODUCTION AND PLANTING MATERIAL PROPAGATION
Biotechnological tools have greatly contributed to the production and supply of improved quality seed and planting material to farmers worldwide. Among other uses, biotechnology is employed to:

  • Speed-up the multiplication process for vegetative propagated crops
  • Detect diseases transmitted by seed or planting material.
  • Eradicate diseases transmitted by planting material.
  • Protect seed with biological control agents.
  • Test varietal identity and purity.

USE OF BIOTECHNOLOGY IN PLANT BREEDING
Crop improvement is the exploitation of genetic variability, followed by several generations of selection. Breeders have always used the most modern technologies available to them. This has permitted them to make considerable progress during the last twenty years, thanks in particular to the development of biotechnology. These tools permit:

  • An acceleration of the selection process,
  • New genetic combinations that are not possible through conventional breeding
  • Greater precision in the desired modifications of the genome.
  • Genes from the wild have been used to protect Brazil's coffee plantations; while a Mexican wild maize confers resistance to seven major diseases. According to the American Medical Association, these foods are "substantially equivalent to their conventional counterparts," and no long-term side effects have yet been detected. Crops and foods can produced using recombinant DNA techniques which enhance their agronomic potential, nutritional characteristics, or one or more features of pest protection (insect and viruses) and tolerance to herbicides.


EXPORTS

  • Export more food from countries that produce surpluses. Top three export grains are wheat, maize (corn), and rice.
  • Before WWII, Western Europe was the only major grain-importing region. In response to the increasing global demand for food imports, the U.S. passed Public Law 480, the Agricultural Trade, and Assistance Act of 1954.
  • South Asia and Southeast Asia have now become net exporters. Thailand has replaced the U.S. as the leading exporter of rice, accounting for one-third of the world total, followed by India in second place with one-sixth.