Sunday, December 13, 2009

The challenge

zoriah_kenya_famine_kakuma_refugee_camp_irc_in...Don't fret, little guy. If the biofuels boys don't starve you to death, they might make you into a slave on a biofuels plantation in Africa. Image by Zoriah via Flickr

This particular piece is from the UK but every word applies even more so to the US:

The problem is summed up by Professor Janet Allen, director of research at the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). "We will have to grow more food on less land using less water and less fertiliser while producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions," she said.

No one said science was easy, of course. Nevertheless, the scale of the problem is striking. It is also unprecedented, says Professor Mike Bevan, acting director of the John Innes Centre in Norfolk. "We are going to have to produce as much food in the next 50 years as was produced over the past 5,000 years. Nothing less will do."

It is a staggering goal that highlights the depth of the food security crisis that Britain and the world face. Over the next 40 years Britain's population will rise from 60 to 75 million while the world's will leap from 6.8 to 9 billion. Feeding all these people will stretch human ingenuity to its limit. Crop yields will have to jump, a goal that will have to be achieved in the middle of global climatic disruption. At the same time, farmers will find many aids – in particular, chemical fertilisers – that they have come to rely on will no longer be available .

"People do not quite realise the scale of the issue," added Bevan. "This is one of the most serious problems that science has ever faced." In Britain the lives of hundreds of thousands of people will be threatened by food shortages. Across the globe, tens of millions – if not hundreds of millions – will be affected. . . .

Meanwhile, in the US, the discussion is about increasing the mandatory cut of ethanol in gasoline from 10 to 15%. Because there's no better use of land than to apply tons of fertilizers derived from fossil fuels in order to make liquid fuels for essentially no energy gain, right?
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