So how do we produce 70% more food using the same, or fewer, land and resources than we do today; in order to food 9 BILLION people?
Simple. We have to embrace modern technology and continue developing new techniques to eliminate waste, increase productivity, and ensure efficiency in food production.
Whether it was tractors or pesticides, the technology of the time helped society sprint forward to our current levels of production. These methods have made it easier to produce more food, fiber, and energy on less land and with less people than ever before.Science and technology continue to deliver amazing results.
Today we are beginning to explore methods of sensor use in irrigation and fertilization, increased biosecurity, and genetic modification so that we can do the same thing in this generation. If we are to move forward, as a people, than we must trust the science that stands behind these practices.
Irrigation and Fertilization
A new phenomenon in farming is the absolute control that the individual has over every nuance of their land. Before the modern age farming was practically a guessing game. They knew that it was good to put manure in the ground and that if you stayed in one place for too long then the soil could lose its ability to produce, but that’s about it. Now science has brought to us the ‘why’ behind these things, and as a result we have learned to measure, test, and distribute water and nutrients in the most efficient way possible.
Moisture, pH, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium levels tell us exactly what is needed to make crops grow, what crops will grow best where, how to make the environmental impact as low as possible, and how to best retain nutrients over time. Often these facts can be sent directly to one’s mobile phone for the sake of convenience!
Increased biosecurity is another way to be efficient, eliminate waste and encourage productivity. This is a series of management steps to prevent the introduction of harmful biological agents into our food production systems. Biosecurity is important for food safety because it keeps away disease, but it also prevents us from having to throw out food that would have otherwise been contaminated and thus is vital to the economy as well. Providing more modern methods of biosecurity and keeping up to date is necessary for safe, efficient, and large enough production for the needs of humanity.
Most importantly in the arsenal of modern food production technology is genetic modifications (popularly known as GMOs). Although there is a lot of controversy around this practice, the only modern part is the lack of cross-breeding to bring about results. For thousands of years humans have isolated traits in both crop and animal agricultural products and bred them to encourage the evolution of that trait to the best of their ability. Through modern science, we can cut out the years of breeding and isolate desired genes in a lab and splice them into other organisms that need them. This expedites the results and reduces the possibility of unwanted consequences. Simply put, modern genetic modification is a safer, more reliable, and faster way to do something that humans have been doing for centuries.
Examples of modern GMO success stories can be found all over the United States and WORLD. Genetic modification saved Hawaii’s papaya industry from a devastating plague of ringspot virus in the early 2000s. Scientists are in the process of reestablishing the dominance of the American Chestnut after it was nearly wiped out by the ‘chestnut blight’ brought to the U.S. in the early 1900s.
The “Golden Rice” Project utilizes genetically engineered rice which produces high amounts of vitamin A to feed the less fortunate and ensure they get the appropriate nutrients. In the world, vitamin A deficiency kills 2 to 3 million children a year and blinds over 500,000. Golden rice has been so successful that they received the Patents for Humanity Reward from the White House, and is the only plausible way to lower those statistics.
There have even been studies that used genetically modified lettuce to cure type 1 diabetes in mice (which are 95% genetically identical to humans), meaning in the near future we might have the capability to treat and cure diabetes in humans, all thanks to genetic modification! However, these are just a very few of the success stories out there, nearly everything that you buy at the grocery store has undergone some form of successful genetic modification.
Genetically modified food produces more per acre than other foods because it is more resistant to pests, weeds, and diseases. With the resistance coded in the genetics of the crops farmers can use less pesticides and herbicides, leaving a lower environmental impact. As with golden rice, GM food can be given a greater nutritional value so it is healthier to eat than its counterparts. And, the shelf life of GMOs can be extended for less waste. All of this increases the efficiency and production capacity of food producers, making it easier to feed the world – whether it is in a food desert here in America or a 3rd world nation across the globe.
Improved breeding and cultivation leads to better yields in our food supply. We can ensure that the animals we raise our maximized to their full potential by giving them proper nutrition in their feed (improved through biotechnology) and breeding them for desired traits.
Selective breeding improves animals’ ability to convert feed to meat, milk, or fiber more efficiently, making the final product more nutritious. The proper management of these animals allows us to better prepare for the growing need for the products they provide.
Modern animal housing systems streamlines animal agriculture while simultaneously protecting these animals from the suffering that occurs due to disease, predation, and intraspecific conflicts found in cage-free systems.
There is no one, singular solution. However, utilizing all that science has given us in this new age of technology we can certainly tackle all of the challenges that are to come. Just like before, the human race has used our superior intellect to adapt and make it possible for us to sustain population sizes never previously dreamed of. We have made it possible to feed the masses and defeat the food crisis. We can choose our own destiny, the question is: will we choose right and embrace these advancements or submit millions of people to starvation, malnutrition, and death?