The Economist: Special Report on Feeding the World

By Alex Field, February 28, 2011

How will the world feed 9 billion people? In a nine-part special report, The Economist’s John Parker scrutinizes the multi-faceted challenges facing the expansion of the global food supply—from science to culture to policy—and explores the seeds of solutions to feed the world as its population grows from nearly 7 billion now to an expected 9 billion by 2050.

In Africa, the report begins with an investigation of new plant technologies like hybrid maize seeds that hold the potential to revolutionize crop yields for farmers. According to Joe deVries, head of crop research at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA, a Burness client), new research toward improving yields and preventing disease in “African crops” such as cassava and sorghum is critical. The next step, he says, is getting these seeds into the hands of farmers. Similar advances in meat and dairy production—a “livestock revolution”—are also taking shape in Africa led by groups like the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI, also a Burness client).

Across the developed world, obesity, nutrition and food waste present a different set of challenges. Quantity of calories is no longer at issue; instead, it’s ensuring people get the right kind of calories and nutrients for health.

Together, The Economist’s report provides a sweeping account of current state of the world’s food—and predictions for what the future holds. There is, Parker concludes, reason for optimism:

“There are plenty of reasons to worry about food: uncertain politics, volatile prices, hunger amid plenty. Yet when all is said and done, the world is at the start of a new agricultural revolution that could, for the first time ever, feed all mankind adequately. The genomes of most major crops have been sequenced and the benefits of that are starting to appear. Countries from Brazil to Vietnam have shown that, given the right technology, sensible policies and a bit of luck, they can transform themselves from basket cases to bread baskets. That, surely, is cause for optimism.”

Read “A special report on feeding the world” from The Economist:
Not just calories
The 9 billion-people question
How much is enough?
No easy fix
Plagued by politics
Waste not, want not
Doing more with less
Our daily bread
A prospect of plenty
Sources and acknowledgments


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