How to feed a hungry world
by Nature Editorial Board
Synopsis and resource annotations by Max Grinnell
The question of how to feed the world's population is one that has troubled
scientists and scholars all the way back to the ancients. Recently, many have
asked how to continue feeding the world's people without wreaking havoc on the
planet. This editorial from the July 28, 2010 edition of
Nature takes a close look at how to produce
enough food for the world's population over the coming decades and how to do it
at an acceptable cost to the planet.
The piece starts by providing a bit of background on world population growth
trends, and then asks the pressing question: "How to expand agricultural output
massively without increasing by much the amount of land used." The editorial
discusses the importance of a "second green revolution", which would effectively
lead to a sustainable intensification of global agriculture.
Moving along, the piece examines some of the potential barriers to reaching the
goal of increased sustainable production. One barrier is that private
agribusiness companies seem reticent to invest in agricultural infrastructure,
due to relatively small or nonexistent profit margins. Another potential problem
is that the growth in public agricultural-research spending peaked in the 1970s,
and it has decreased since then in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, where
food needs are rather intense.
Finally, the piece concludes by noting that poverty is the real root cause of
world hunger, and that market volatility was one of the main causes of the 2008
food crisis. Readers will also want to make use of the many resources offered at
the end of the piece, and they include news features (such as "The Global
Farm"), opinion articles, and a podcast titled "Future Food".
Found below is a list of useful resources that will illuminate and
enhance understanding of the topics found within this article.
The first link
take visitors to the Future Agricultures website, which contains reports, a
blog, and publications related to the global food system and agricultural
The second link
lead visitors to the Biodiversity Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
section of the United Nations website. Here interested parties can learn about
their work on encouraging biodiversity in order to alleviate world hunger.
The third link
to a fascinating report from the International Development Resource Centre
(IDRC) about urban agriculture, and how it might be an integral part of
Moving on, the fourth
leads to the USDA's Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education
site. Educators will appreciate the resources contained within the "For
Educators" area here.
The fifth link
to the Union of Concerned Scientists: Food and Agriculture site, which includes
information on Genetic Engineering, Pharma Crops, and the impacts of Industrial
The final link
an excellent site provided by the United Nations Educational Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The site provides educators with lesson plans
and interactive modules designed to help them discuss the principles of
sustainable development in the classroom.