Jack Bobo: Can Agriculture Save the Planet before It Destroys It? (Part 2)

On April 30th, we shared Part 1 of a guest post from U.S. State Department’s Jack Bobo on the importance of feeding a rising global population. Mr. Bobo’s post concludes this week with Part 2:

In order to sustainably feed 9 billion people, global agriculture will need to produce 60% more food using less land, less water, less fertilizer and fewer pesticides. In other words, we will need to do everything better than we are doing it today and our rivers and lakes are already running dry.U.S. Department of State

The rapid pace of technological development suggests that scientists may, indeed, be able to sustain the growth of the past. But this will only happen if scientists are able to apply the most advanced technologies to the problems at hand. This is a hardly a certainty at the moment given opposing views of the future as reflected in the slow food movement and liberalized trade in food products. Figuring out how to understand and balance these real and, in some ways, opposing trends, will determine the future health of our planet.

We need the best ideas from organic and ecological food systems combined with modern advances in molecular breeding and genetics if we are to address this pressing challenge and sustainably feed a growing planet. I will be the first to admit that science doesn’t always get it right. It’s also true, however, that you can’t get it right without science.

The good news is that after 2050 population growth will slow dramatically and everything will get easier. So, if we are able to get to 2050 without cutting down our forests and draining our rivers and lakes, we will be good forever. The next 40 years are not only the most important 40 years there have ever been in the history of agriculture. They are also the most important 40 years there will ever be in the history of agriculture.

We owe it to coming generations to use every tool available, from organic production to biotechnology, to increase the quantity and quality of food while minimizing the footprint of agriculture.  This will require the attention and effort of all of us. Our lives and the lives of our children depend on it.  And, if we’re successful, agriculture just might save the planet.

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