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Agriculture and the Future

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Feeding a growing population. 'Peak farmland' is here, crop area to diminish -study. * Rising yields, slowing population translate to farmland peak * Food crop area could shrink by 10 pct in half a century * Cropland 2.5 times France could return to nature by 2060 By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent OSLO, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The amount of land needed to grow crops worldwide is at a peak, and a geographical area more than twice the size of France will be able to return to its natural state by 2060 as a result of rising yields and slower population growth, a group of experts said on Monday. Their report, conflicting with United Nations studies that say more cropland will be needed in coming decades to avert hunger and price spikes as the world population rises above 7 billion, said humanity had reached what it called "Peak Farmland".

More crops for use as biofuels and increased meat consumption in emerging economies such as China and India, demanding more cropland to feed livestock, would not offset a fall from the peak driven by improved yields, it calculated. 13 Resolutions to Change the Food System in 2013. As we start 2013, many people will be thinking about plans and promises to improve their diets and health. We think a broader collection of farmers, policy-makers, and eaters need new, bigger resolutions for fixing the food system -- real changes with long-term impacts in fields, boardrooms, and on plates all over the world. These are resolutions that the world can't afford to break with nearly one billion still hungry and more than one billion suffering from the effects of being overweight and obese.

We have the tools -- let's use them in 2013! Here are our 13 resolutions to change the food system in 2013: 1. Growing the Cities: Food production doesn't only happen in fields or factories. Nearly one billion people worldwide produce food in cities. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. We can do it --- together! A Less Thirsty Future Through Engineered Crops? An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal sees a bright future for crops engineered for drought tolerance, water use efficiency, and other useful traits. The author, R. Paul Thompson, criticizes our recent report, “High and Dry,” for expressing too little faith in the ability of science and technology to make good on its unmet promises about genetic engineering.

The basic point of the article is that new technologies typically start slow, but get more effective and less expensive as they mature, so we should expect GE to get cheaper and more effective too. Corn plant in drought-cracked soil. Copyright New Improved Biotech? Clearly technologies can advance, and the author provides a few cases in point.

Technologies may face challenges that ultimately do not find adequate solutions, for technical, social, or economic reasons. Thompson ignores the part of our report that examines why the technology faces significant challenges in addressing drought. Adding Rice Farmers to the Rio+20 Agenda. COLOMBO, May 16, 2012 (IPS) - The year 2011 was one of extremes for the small Sri Lankan village of Verugal. Lying on the island’s Northeastern coast, Verugal began the year with incessant rainfall. Between January and February of 2011, the East coast received a year’s worth of rain, which destroyed over 7,000 hectares of rice crops in Verugal and about 17 percent of the country’s annual rice harvest. Some villages were cut off for weeks on end. "I was working in a life jacket for over two weeks," said Ponnabalam Thanesvaran, head of the Verugal divisional secretariat and the highest-ranking government official for the region.

Just as the rains abated around September, Verugal fell foul of nature’s wrath once more, only this time weathering the flip side of the coin: drought. Thanesvaran told IPS that between September and October his main task was providing drinking water to remote villages, some of which had been cut off by floods just nine months ago. Countrywide pattern. Biofuels. Can the world feed 7 billion people? 31/10/2011 at 8:10 am This month, the world’s human population is said to have crossed the 7 billion mark.

This news produced lots of conferences, seminars and articles, on the question that is also the title of this blog post. So we thought it would be helpful to produce a digest of those articles: The UN forecasts that world population will rise to 9.3 billion in 2050 and surpass 10 billion by the end of this century. (See the UN stats on population) Many commentators have stressed that this is good news: around the world people are living longer, healthier, more productive lives. So the key points to take away from this month’s discussions about the growing world population are: The focus should not be on “population control”, but on addressing the fact that more than 215 million women worldwide who do not want to become pregnant have no access to modern methods of contraception.A growing world population does not mean more starvation.

“I wouldn’t focus on the poverty-stricken masses. Can the World Save Lives and Combat Climate Change? Environmental, humanitarian and economic challenges do not exist in isolation, but that is how the world most often deals with them. To take just one example: one of the key challenges facing cities around the globe in the 21st century is flooding.

Flooding is determined by environmental factors, from climate change to overcrowding of floodplains with habitation. Flooding is also often a humanitarian disaster when it strikes and can be an aftereffect of big development projects, like hydroelectric dams. Or take the metals in a cell phone. As Judith Rodin, president of the philanthropic Rockefeller Foundation, noted at her organization's event about "resilient livelihoods" on September 25, tungsten is the "metal that puts the buzz in your cell phone. " The U.N. buzz phrase of the last decade—"sustainable development"—is slowly morphing into a new sustainable buzzword for the development and humanitarian communities: resilience.

Plus, "we are not winning the war on hunger. Life saver? Cut that steak in half to keep the climate in check. Photo by Jack Lyons. Eric Davidson has no grand plan to turn you into a vegetarian. But in order for us to avoid catastrophic climate change, this senior scientist and executive director at Woods Hole Research Center says people in developed nations may need to eat half as much meat. Yep — you heard that right. This isn’t about the way animals are treated, nor is it about reducing heart disease. For the sake of the climate alone, we — as a culture — need to eat half as many burgers, and half as much bacon. According to a recent study from Davidson, this controversial dietary shift is crucial if we want to get serious about reducing emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas. We’ve long known that eating animals (who eat grains) requires a great deal more agricultural production than eating those grains ourselves. And although it would be a heavy lift, that less meat/less nitrogen scenario is what’s required for the latter.

As he explained in the study: All of the above. Designing food systems to protect nature and get rid of hunger. Hunger and malnutrition is manmade. It is in the design of the industrial chemical model of agriculture. And just as hunger has been created by design, producing healthy and nutritious food for all can be designed through food democracy. That is what we do in Navdanya. That is what the diverse movements for food sovereignty and agro-ecology are designing on the ground. We are repeatedly told we will starve without poisons and chemical fertilisers. Industrial production has led to such a severe ecological and social crisis, to ensure the supply of healthy food, we must move towards agro-ecological and sustainable systems of food production that work with nature, not against her. Industrialisation of agriculture creates hunger and malnutrition, yet further industrialisation of food systems are offered as cures for the crisis.

Root causes Agriculture policy focuses on increasing yields of individual crops - not the output of the food system and its nutritional value. Biodiversity dysfunction. Environment and Food Needs Can be Met. Agriculture has been a major driver of human-caused climate change, responsible for up to 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, it’s also extremely vulnerable to the effects of rising temperatures. But a new report says agricultural innovations can result in climate-friendly food production.

Listen to De Capua report on climate-friendly agriculture Droughts, floods, severe storms and unpredictable weather patterns have all been blamed on climate change. The Worldwatch Institute says the events not only “affect people’s daily routines, but disrupt life-sustaining agriculture.” In 2012, the Midwestern United States breadbasket suffered record heat and severe drought. What’s more, the report says the “challenges are expected to grow more pervasive in the future.” Danielle Nierenberg is co-founder of the research group Food Tank and former director of Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet Project. Livestock, in particular, has a major effect on the environment. Food Security: Farm Smarter Not to Plow More Land. A major Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) says the key to food security is to farm smarter, not to plow more land.

The strains on agriculture are growing as the global population rises and emerging economies demand more types of food. Frank Rijsberman, CEO of CGIAR noted,“Agriculture had been neglected for several decades. We had become used to abundant and cheap food. The world got a wake-up call in 2008, ’10, ’11 with spikes in food prices. People realised that we have to produce an awful lot more food for a growing world population, as much as 70% by 2050,” The world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, an increase of 2 billion from the current level. Rijsberman explained; “No, actually, that’s the wrong way to go. They are doing that now more rapidly than during the green revolution.

He said the key is research to learn how to get greater crop output from existing agricultural land. Hunger and Food Security. New Green Revolution for Africa? No sustainable development without hunger eradication. Our food systems need to become more sustainable. 30 May 2012, Rome - Sustainable development cannot be realized unless hunger and malnutrition are eradicated, FAO said in a policy document prepared for the Rio+20 Summit to be held in June in Rio de Janeiro. "We cannot call development sustainable while this situation persists, while nearly one out of every seven men, women and children are left behind, victims of undernourishment," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. "The quest for food security can be the common thread that links the different challenges we face and helps build a sustainable future.

At the Rio Summit we have the golden opportunity to explore the convergence between the agendas of food security and sustainability to ensure that happens," he added. "Improving agricultural and food systems is essential for a world with both healthier people and healthier ecosystems," it says. Link between hunger and environment More with less Feeding 9 billion people. Rio+20 should prioritise sustainable agriculture, says Caroline Spelman | Global development.

Sustainable agriculture should be the UK's key objective for Rio+20, according to the UK secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, Caroline Spelman, who will be attending next month's UN conference on sustainable development with the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg. "Everywhere in the world, wherever farmers farm, should be put on a sustainable footing," she told a Faith in Rio debate in London on Wednesday, organised by the NGOs Cafod, Christian Aid, Tearfund and Progressio.

"Just imagine if we could move farmers from subsistence to sustainability," she added, citing some farmers' inability to store produce and water as an example of where low-key technology could make a real difference in developing countries. Water, land and energy should form the nexus of the SDGs, Spelman said, echoing the sentiments of the European Development Report published last week. She called for a small number of goals focused on the most critical sustainability issues. Sustainable Small-holder Agriculture. The FAO must do more to promote food as a basic human right | Olivier De Schutter | Global development.

Should the UN's leading food security agency prioritise helping countries boost their agricultural production with subsidised chemical fertiliser, or promote ecological farming practices? Should it help countries protect themselves against import surges, or open them to the global marketplace? Should it work exclusively with national ministries of agriculture, or demand inter-ministerial and civil society participation? Last year, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) granted me access to key personnel in Rome and in the field, allowing me to take stock of its contribution to securing food as a human right for the world's poorest people. Supporting countries and regions to design their food security strategies is the bread and butter of what the FAO does – and has yielded many impressive results. But how systematically does the agency support this kind of change? Nonetheless, in recent years the FAO has begun to carve out a clearer identity for itself.

Towards a strategic response to Hunger. World agriculture: towards 2015/2030. All rights reserved. Reproduction and dissemination of material in this information product for educational or other non-commercial purposes are authorized without any prior written permission from the copyright holders provided the source is fully acknowledged. Reproduction of material in this information product for resale or other commercial purposes is prohibited without written permission of the copyright holders. Applications for such permission should be addressed to the Chief, Publishing Management Service, Information Division, FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy or by e-mail to