Feeding the world (Foodtank / New Agriculturist)

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Feeding the world: paradigm shift or incremental improvements?

by Robin Bourgeois, GFAR

A critical review of The Economists’ Conference “Feeding the World 2013, Accelerating Global Collaboration on Food Security”, Amsterdam, January 30, 2013.

In the quest to feed 9 billion people by 2050, “our salvation can only come from farmers,” said Sharon Dijksma, Dutch Minister of Agriculture, quoting Gandhi. Her opening remarks to The Economist‘s ‘Feeding the world 2013’ conference, held in Amsterdam in January, continued with three key messages: we need to double productivity while using half the inputs, reduce wastes in developing and developed countries, and develop a climate smart agriculture to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Such a view just does not go far enough. There’s a widely quoted ‘fact’ that production must increase by 70 per cent in order to feed 9 billion people, but it is a myth. It is based on a FAO trend projection, meaning that it would be true if nothing changes. Yet we know that change is the only constant feature of our world. If we really want to understand the nature and scale of the problem facing us, and have a chance of securing access to nutritious food for all – the real challenge – one important thing we can do is look at consumer behaviour.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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