July 27, 2010

Can We Feed The World In 2050?

Over the coming half-century the world's farmers will be asked to double global food production - using less water, less land, less energy, less fertiliser and less technology than they have today.

In his new book "ËœThe Coming Famine', author Julian Cribb lays out a vivid picture of impending planetary crisis "” major food shortages that threaten to hit by mid-century.

Cribb's comprehensive assessment describes how a dangerous confluence of scarcities"”of water, good land, energy, nutrients, technology, fish and stable climates "“ are coming into play as the world's population grows towards 10 billion and its demand for nutritious food grows even faster.

Writing in brisk, accessible language, Cribb explains how the food system interacts with armed conflict, poverty, society, climate and the environment. He explains how regional shortages send shockwaves into the global community, with potential impacts on every nation and person on the planet as we approach the mid-century.

Far from describing a Doomsday scenario, The Coming Famine is a strong and positive call to action, exploring the most urgent issue of our age and raising practical solutions for each of the major challenges it raises.

"This book is a wake-up call, intended for anyone who eats or plans to in future," he says. "The abundance of food in the past generation has created a false sense of security and we have taken our eye off what is possibly the most critical issue to the human future of all "“ certainly the most pressing: how we feed our vast population sustainably," Cribb says.

"While global food demand is set to double, just about everything needed to satisfy it is becoming much more scarce and costly.

"And while well-off consumers enjoy the cheapest food in history "“ they are throwing half of it away and paying farmers for it at rates that destroy large parts of global agriculture and its resource base.

"We have created a culture of waste that cannot last."

Because they no longer grow their own food, tomorrow's huge cities of 20, 30 or even 40 million people risk catastrophe if there is any disruption in their food supplies, he cautions. Many of the world's key "Ëœfood bowl' regions are already critically stressed.

"There is also mounting evidence that modern conflicts and refugee crisis are often inflamed, at root, by arguments between groups over food, land and water as well as other differences. If we aim to increase the prospects of world peace, we need to ensure everyone is well fed."

The Coming Famine says humanity must reinvent both how it produces food and the world diet if it is to successfully navigate the peak in human numbers and demand in the 2050-60s.

However Cribb argues this can be both an inspiring and rewarding challenge, as well as a necessity, leading to food that is healthier, safer, more varied, delicious and interesting than today's.

A former newspaper editor and science correspondent, Cribb has won 32 awards for journalism and written six books. He lives in Canberra, Australia.

Critics say:

"This book is not just a warning but offers sound guidance for the needed actions; easily understandable but suitably comprehensive." - Joachim von Braun, former Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute

"An erudite and learned analysis of humanity's greatest challenge. This is a book all thinking people should read." - Professor Lindsay Falvey, University of Cambridge

"This timely book analyses the issues, addresses what can be done and is a must-read for any serious person." "“ John Kerin, former Australian Minister for Primary Industries and Energy.

"A significant, well-researched book that closely examines the many variables contributing to the future of world stability through food production. It is recommended to the thoughtful reader." - John Radcliffe, former Deputy Director CSIRO.


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