Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Beating the Global Food Crisis

By Julian Cribb

In the first of a two-part series Julian Cribb looks at what is driving global food insecurity – and how we can overcome it.

Julian Cribb is a science writer and author of The Coming Famine (UCP 2010). In the next issue of Australasian Science he will outline solutions to the challenge of feeding 10 billion people. This article is based on a paper presented to the Australian Academy of Science’s 2nd Earth System Outlook Conference.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Since 2008 there have been three world food crises, with a fourth possible in 2013 according to the United Nations.

Last night 216,000 more people sat down to dinner than dined the day before. While its growth rate is slowing, the human population continues to expand. On present trends it could reach 10, and possibly 11, billion people by the 2060s.1 At the same time, the demand for protein of nations like China, India and Brazil is soaring. Within half a century these factors will double global food demand.

By the 2060s we will require around 600 quadrillion calories every single day to feed everyone. And we will have to keep on producing them for more than half a century – until the women of the world can safely bring the population down to a more sustainable figure: perhaps 4–5 billion. The central issue in the 21st century will be whether or not we can achieve and sustain such a mighty harvest.

Many people see this as a simple problem: just apply more technology, as we did in the Green Revolution, to redouble agricultural production. However, food systems worldwide now face critical limitations. There are time bombs ticking in each of the major resources needed to secure our food supply – in water, land, nutrients, energy, technology, skills, fish, finance and stable climates.

Too long ignored is the dangerous synergy between...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.