Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Scientists Want To Have Their Cake And Eat It….

Global food production needs to be increased by between 50 and 100 per cent if widespread famine is to be avoided in the coming decades as the human population expands rapidly, leading scientists said.
Well, OK. How are we going to do that then?

Well, they don’t know. But some of their suggestions will put them on a collision course with the Greens and the other environmental nutcases:
The experts, drawn from the Royal Society, Britain's national academy of scientists, believe that a variety of short-term and longer-term measures will have to be adopted urgently if agricultural production is to meet the demands made by the growth in human numbers.

They cite the original green revolution of the 1960s when new crop varieties, greater use of agro-chemicals, and a change in farming practices led to a dramatic increase in food production: it leapt from 1.84 billion tonnes in 1961 to 4.38 billion tonnes in 2007. But scientists accept that this increase came at great environmental cost, and the Royal Society report warns that a second green revolution has to be based on a sustainable increase in global food production without a significant expansion in the area of land turned over to farming.
So, if there’s no chance of expanding the land, we’ll have to tinker with the methods, won’t we?
"There is insufficient water to support an increase in the cultivated areas, and the environmental consequences of increasing cultivated areas are undesirable. Additional production will have to take place without further damage to [the environment]," the Royal Society report says. The area of land available to sustain each human being is "dangerously declining" because of soil degradation, the report says.
And that means GM…
The Royal Society report says that a range of measures, from new ways of managing crops – such as changes to the way they are irrigated – to the introduction of GM varieties that are drought-resistant or salt-tolerant, will all have to be called upon to boost food production.
Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen.

Who’s going to be the first watermelon to declare ‘Let them all starve!’..?

14 comments:

Fat Hen said...

Current food production can easily be expanded to many times what is is currently -- hydroponics is a useful technique here. And if you're not squeamish about what you eat, algae, insects and funghi hold many exciting possibilities.

However that said, no matter what we do, eventually growth will stop... for those who have not already seen it, this film is recommended: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-QA2rkpBSY

Those 'leading scientists' (or, as some would call them 'math illiterates') are perfect examples of why the 1970's revolution in teaching was a bad idea...we may have beaten Malthus for a few years, but not forever.

Sue said...

What would these people do for a living if they didn't make things up constantly?

Quite honestly, I'm not keen on GM crops. Who knows whether messing at the genetic level with crops is not going to have an adverse effect on us?

Where I live in Andalucia, each little small holding is a farm. They always use organic pesticides and real manure. At the end of each season, tons of food is just dumped. Oranges and lemons are left to rot and vegetables are thrown into the compost heap by the crateful.

Surely this region can't be alone in this sort of wastage? Seems to me we have a problem with distribution rather than not being able to grow enough.

We need to get back to growing things at a local level with small farms or holdings distributing to the local area. This is all about big business, producing cheap food which puts the small farmer out of work.. and ensures their monopoly.

And as for water, the Canaries manages quite well on desalination plants....

Von Spreuth. said...

It is a self solving problem. Dead people do not eat. It balances out.

Easy.

MTG said...

Since you have all the answers, perhaps our leading scientists could be spared the idignities of putting themselves out and getting it all wrong, JuliaM?

Von Spreuth. said...

MTG said...

Since you have all the answers, perhaps our leading scientists could be spared the idignities of putting themselves out and getting it all wrong,
Copernicus, Galleleo, Christopher Columbus?

adamcollyer said...

I always get suspicious when I hear august bodies telling us we must "do something immediately" to deal with a crisis that is "predicted" in 2050.

Could anyone in 1968 have even come close to predicting the world we live in today?

MTG said...

Dear Von Spreuth,
I am surprised the names Mengele, Von Braun and Heisenberg did not form on your keyboard spontaneously.

Columbus was no more a scientist than your 'Galleleo' and during his own lifetime, Copernicus escaped a warm farewell from the Church by accepting the lunatic label.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it'll be us Brits that starve. We import food, we have a collapsing economy and a worthless currency.

Anyway, the answer is clear. Too many people. Less people means no problems feeding them nor overexploiting the earth's natural capacity to accomodate them.

Malthus is still right. Easter Island is a warning.

Leg-iron said...

MTG

As a scientist (a real one, currently practising, and working with both human and agricultural science to boot) I can see you have an almost god-like view of us all.

Scientists are human and (this one you won't like) many scientists are blinkered idiots. Just like in the real world.

Sure, we could boost production but why? So much of current production is wasted that boosting it can only have one outcome. More waste.

There is no problem with production. the problem is economic and logistic. The best places to grow food are the places with few people in them. The best place to sell food is far away from the place where it's grown. It's not so much the cost of production that limits food as the cost of moving it around.

We don't need to grow more food. We need better ways of moving it from where it's grown to where it's eaten.

Those scientists you adore live where it's eaten, not where it's grown. They have not considered how much of the produced food just gets dumped because the cost of transporting it is more than the money it would make on sale.

Oh, and they want their personal research funded too. So it's better for them to recommend high-yield GM even though it still won't be economic to transport it anywhere.

There is more to science than the individual scientist, and scientists, being human, are not immune to promoting their own interests first.

Science has no gods. Not even Dawkins.

JuliaM said...

"However that said, no matter what we do, eventually growth will stop..."

Indeed. Like death and taxes it seems inevitable, no matter how ingenious we get...

"What would these people do for a living if they didn't make things up constantly?"

Go into politics or advertising..? ;)

"I always get suspicious when I hear august bodies telling us we must "do something immediately" to deal with a crisis that is "predicted" in 2050."

They are usually smarter than that, and insist what they are predicting is for ten years time. Or even five.

"We don't need to grow more food. We need better ways of moving it from where it's grown to where it's eaten."

And we need to ensure we're growing the things that the majority of people eat...

MTG said...

Dear Leg Iron,
Accept my humble gratitude for your lofty comments. The assumption you are sole scientist in present company cements your credentials as firmly as the claim that no real scientist smokes or has any sense of a creator.

My position remains very different to that of an addicted smoker, currently working in agricultural boots.

Leg-iron said...

Dr. Gray

The assumption you are sole scientist in present company cements your credentials as firmly as the claim that no real scientist smokes or has any sense of a creator.

1. What assumption? I present my own credentials. For all I know there's a professor of crop research here. I suspect it's not you.

2. Who has claimed that no real scientist smokes or believes in a God? You? I know several devoutly Christian scientists and since they don't work on evolution, it does not affect their work. I have no religion myself, nor do I class myself 'atheist'. I ignore it all.

Could it be that since you have bought in to the 'smokers are subhuman' brainwashing, your mind cannot cope with the idea of a smoker with an IQ greater than 50? Or that a rational mind, such as yours, cannot possibly enjoy anything that does not involve test tubes and equations?

My position remains very different to that of an addicted smoker, currently working in agricultural boots.

I must say, you do come out with a better class of insult than I usually find. You may believe me an addict if you wish. You can imagine me in wellies if it makes you happy. Fortunately, reality is not obliged to conform to your view of it.

You are free to dismiss every word I say as the ramblings of a crazed addict if it pleases you to do so. I drink whisky, too, so you may, if you wish, picture me lying in the gutter soaked in urine and surrounded by half-smoked cigarettes. Enjoy the image. I honestly don't care at all.

You can pretend I am an unemployed 14-year-old, barely able to reach the keyboard past a burger-filled gut. You can imagine me a stick-thin pensioner hovering, mantis-like, in anticipation of your response. Make up your world to suit. It's all okay.

None of that changes anything in the real world. Food is still being wasted because it costs too much to transport it to where it's needed. The EU, for years, denied there existed anything as ridiculous as a 'defined banana' or other fruit and vegetable standards that required throwing away perfectly good food because it was the wrong shape.

Then we hit a recession and the EU announce their intention to rescind the rules that did not exist so that 'substandard' food could reach the market.

Worried about CO2 emissions? How much do you think was wasted emissions in growing food that cannot be sold, and how much more from the decay of that waste? You could cut emissions by allowing split-root carrots to reach the supermarkets and increase the food supply at the same time.

Taxing emissions on transport makes transport more expensive. Cut those taxes and you'll see more food transported. More efficient use of the transport means fewer emissions per unit carried.

But these are the worthless ramblings of a smoker and a drinker. Feel free to pay no heed at all.

MTG said...

I can offer you my compliments on a sharp foil which is extremely well handled, Sir. I trust that such finesse can accommodate disagreement with you in other areas.

Leg-iron said...

I look forward to future duels.

Long may we continue to disagree.