This is related to my earlier ProMED post.
Sorry for the flurry of stuff; I was out of the office most of last
week and am catching up.
Date: Thu, 6 Aug 1998 22:14:46 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: PRO/PL> Feeding a hungrier world
FEEDING A HUNGRIER WORLD
A ProMED-mail post
Date: Thu, 06 Aug 1998 07:47:12 -0700
Source: Phytopathology News 30 (6): 90-91.
Citation: Anderson, John. 1996. Feeding A Hungrier World.
Can the earth feed two billion more people by the early 21st century?
And do it without plowing up millions of acres of tropical forests and
other fragile ecosystems?
Despite the conspicuous success of scientifically created "world
crops", the answers to these questions, experts say, will depend as
much on politics and policy as they do on progress. During the past 70
years, agricultural research has boosted global food production by an
amount sufficient for one billion additional people, according to new
estimates by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural
Research (CGIAR) consortium of 16 research centers worldwide.
Thanks in large measure to new farming techniques and to novel strains
of rice, wheat and other crops developed by CGIAR, the chronic
shortages that afflicted 75 developing countries during the 1980s have
been averted in the 90s:
RICE: nine-tenths is grown in the Asia/Pacific region, where demand is
projected to jump 70% in the next 30 years; yields rose by 52% and
this crop is increasingly important in Africa and Latin America.
WHEAT: is eaten by more very low-income people than any other crop;
yields per acre nearly doubled from 1974 to 1994 in all regions,
except Latin America.
CORN: production increased in all areas (yields rose by 72%) and more
than doubled in the Middle East and Asia. In Africa, demand far
CASSAVA: this starchy root is the main staple for 200 million
Africans. New "Super Cassava" strains promise to triple output per
acre in Africa.
POTATO: output has risen rapidly in all regions, tripling in the
Middle East over the past 20 years and growing an average of 80%
SWEET POTATO: is more popular than potatoes in Africa and Asia, but
the greatest increase since the early 1970s has been in the Middle
East and North Africa.
SORGHUM: like millet, this crop is on the increase only in Africa,
where production increased 37% in the past 20 years.
BANANAS: Asia and the Pacific lead the world in production, but output
has nearly tripled in the Middle East and North Africa during the past
BARLEY: is an important staple only in the Middle East and North
Africa, although Asian production has risen 50% in the past 25 years.
FOOD LEGUMES: include peas and beans which have a high protein content
and are grown around the world. Asia and Africa have the highest
production levels, but yields have stagnated in all regions.
MILLET: world production of this cereal grass was stagnant or
declining, except in Africa, where output rose 26% in the past 20
PLANTAINS: these banana-like plants are chiefly grown in Africa, but
are increasingly popular in Latin America.
CGIAR officials, who met in Switzerland in February 1995 to plan for
an ominous future are doubting that scientific innovation alone can
raise production sufficiently to keep pace with hunger. The planet's
population is projected to grow by about 85 million people a year for
two or three decades. Ninety percent of that will occur in the Third
World, approximately doubling demand for food there by 2025.
"We are in a race with time" said Ismail Serageldm, Chairman of CGIAR
and vice president of environmentally sustainable development at the
World Bank, a major CGIAR sponsor. The "nightmarish pressure of
population growth against limited resources", he said, means that the
growing need "cannot be met exclusively by yield increases. It can't
be done without expansion of agricultural land and irrigation."
"In order to do so without ravaging the environment, Serageldin said,
developing countries are going to have to work much harder to put the
lessons of recent research into practice and coax more food out of
each acre." "There is a huge gap between what is available and what is
actually being done to push up the production of the average farmer",
Serageldin said. "In rice, for example, the biological maximum is 15
metric tons per hectare (about 7 US tons/acre. We are nowhere near
According to the most recent CGIAR figures, 1994 average yields in
developing countries was 3.5 metric tons per hectare. "In addition",
Serageldin said, "there is often tremendous waste in current use of
resources. In some cases, irrigation systems are so inefficient it can
take 2000 pounds of water to produce a ton of rice. Such conditions
cannot continue long in developing countries where, on average, 73
percent of all fresh water is used for agricultural irrigation."
Serageldin stressed that wealthy nations are going to have to
cooperate more closely with the Third World, by sharing techniques and
by changing policies that keep poorer countries from developing local
agriculture, which "accounts for 60 to 80% of employment and half the
national income in low-income countries." That means ending the
practice - common among some affluent nations that subsidize
agriculture - of dumping wheat, dairy and meat surpluses on the Third
World below cost. "They say we don't know what to do with it, so let's
call it food aid", Serageldin said. "That, in turn, means keeping
people dependent on food stuffs they are unable to produce locally. In
the long rim, it undercuts their self-sufficiency and they remain
insecure and locked in poverty."
Thanks to the extraordinary success of agricultural research,
Serageldin said, "some people have become very complacent and that's
not justified. The starvation disaster scenario is a possibility if we
don't get our act together."
[And, if we add the increasing rate of plant disease emergence to this
equation, then the challenge becomes even greater - Mod.PKA]
The American Phytopathological Society <firstname.lastname@example.org>
3340 Pilot Knob Road
St. Paul, Minnesota 55121
Michele Gale-Sinex, communications manager
Center for Integrated Ag Systems
UW-Madison College of Ag and Life Sciences
Voice: (608) 262-8018 FAX: (608) 265-3020
In the end, they will lay their freedom at our feet
and say to us, 'Make us your slaves, but feed us.'
--the Grand Inquisitor, Dostoevsky
To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with "unsubscribe sanet-mg".
To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command