By 2030 the world's population is expected to top eight billion. Can the world produce enough food to meet global demands? The answer is yes, according to a new report from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) Global Perspective Studies Unit completed in April and released at the end of July.
This conclusion is reached by FAO experts whose quantitative analysis specifically does NOT allow for any production improvements from genetically modified (GM) crops. These are not factored in by FAO due to the ongoing uncertainties regarding the technical performance, safety and consumer acceptance of GM crops. (p.2)
Accordingly the FAO projections are restricted to being based on 'present-day' technical knowledge only (p.1, 2, 95, 117). Ignoring the impact of any future developments in genetic engineering, and using a baseline year of 1995/7, the FAO report reveals that:
* the latest assessment of world population trends by the UN (UN,1999) indicates that there is a 'drastic deceleration' in world demographic growth in prospect. (p.3)
* the growth rate of the world population, which had peaked in the second half of the 1960s at 2.1 percent p.a. and had fallen to 1.3 percent p.a. by the late 1990s, is projected to fall further to 1.0 percent by 2015, to 0.7 percent by 2030 and to 0.3 percent by 2050. (p.4, 25)
* although the annual rate of growth in global crop production is expected to reduce, the projected overall increment in world crop production to 2030 of 57% (p.95, 96) will exceed population growth. (p.25)
* global per capita food consumption will grow significantly. The world average will approach 3000 kcal/person/day in 2015 and exceed 3000 by 2030. Average consumption in developing countries will rise from 2626 in the 1990's to 3020 in 2030. (p.4, 23, 29)
* the number of well-fed people (i.e. not classed as undernourished) in developing countries will increase by 75% by 2030, to produce a level equivalent to 94% of their population. (p.5) (The outstanding balance will reflect the failure of countries to transit to rapid economic development and poverty reduction.(p.40))
* in parallel the number of countries having high incidence of undernourishment will reduce by 84% by 2030. (p.5)
* by 2030, crop production in the developing countries is projected to be 70 percent higher than in the 1990s. (p.11)
* projected faster growth in crop production in developing countries, as compared to the world average, means that by 2030 this group of countries will account for almost three-quarters (72 percent) of world crop production, up from two-thirds (66 percent) in 1995/97 and just over half (53 percent) in 1961/63. (p.95). [Given this prognosis it is not surprising that biotechnology companies are currently keen to gain a foothold for GM crops in developing countries.]
The FAO report emphasises that:
"Concerning the future, a number of projection studies have addressed and largely answered in the positive the issue whether the resource base of world agriculture, including its land component, can continue to evolve in a flexible and adaptable manner as it did in the past, and also whether it can continue to exert downward pressure on the real price of food (see for example Pinstrup-Andersen et al., 1999). The largely positive answers mean essentially that for the world as a whole there is enough, or more than enough, food production potential to meet the growth of effective demand, i.e. the demand for food of those who can afford to pay farmers to produce it." (p.109)
[i.e. any residual hunger problems will be largely poverty, rather than production related (p.40) - e.g: as is the case in India at present where millions of people go hungry despite the country holding massive grain surpluses in store: for more on this shameful situation see - http://biotech-info.net/Biotechnology_not_answer.html . Notwithstanding this overriding poverty factor absolute numbers of those undernourished are expected to halve globally by 2030 despite the projected increase in total population. (p.40)].
The Food and Agriculture Organisation is the largest autonomous agency within the United Nations. Its report "Agriculture: Towards 2015/30", can be obtained at http://www.fao.org/es/ESD/at2015/toc-e.htm .
Whilst the FAO's quantitative projections avoid the GM factor altogether, it is worth noting that such crops frequently perform worse for farmers than conventional crops - for more on this see, http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/gmagric.htm .
So the obvious remaining question is - why are we taking unnecessary risks with global food security and the environment by introducing GM crops incorporating recombinant DNA?
For more information on the nature of those risks see 'The Promise of Plant Biotechnology - The Threat of Genetically Modified Organisms', an excellent review by Patrick Brown, Professor of Pomology and Director of International Programs, College of Agriculture & Environmental Science, University of California, Davis: http://www.lifesciencenz.com/repository/external_news_material/promise_opponent.htm (New Zealand Life Sciences Network web site).
"RDNA techniques are profoundly different from traditional breeding methods and are well known to cause unexpected metabolic perturbations. The principle of substantial equivalence is not scientifically justifiable; hence we can make no a priori assumption of the safety of any rDNA manipulation." Patrick Brown, July 2000.