Disruptive technologies will help feed 9 billion by 2050

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A perfect storm created by a confluence of climate change, falling yield growth, and rising demand is reviving the centuries-old Malthusian fear of food supply not keeping pace with population growth. However, an analysis from Lux Research finds that science will once again help keep the dire predictions from coming to pass.

The sharp spike in food prices this century has raised question marks about agriculture's ability to meet rising demand. Indeed, current demand and production trends will lead to a global shortfall of wheat, rice and soybeans by 2030 -- however, new disruptive technologies are emerging that will avert the crisis.

"Technologies that achieved food security in the 20th century will prove inadequate in the 21st," said Aditya Ranade, Lux Research Senior Analyst and the lead author of the report titled, "Combating Malthus: Technologies to Feed 9 Billion by 2050." "However, advances such as precision agriculture and genomics-enabled modified crops will help dispel Malthusian fears, at least for the two major food grains -- wheat and rice."

Lux Research analysts examined emerging technologies spanning the entire agricultural value chain and the major agricultural production countries such as the U.S., Brazil, India, China, Indonesia, Russia, Canada and Argentina. Among their findings:

  • Agriculture will need to go high-tech. Higher yields derived from better agricultural technologies are key to the future. Promising technologies include crops that can incorporate genes from other organisms; precision agriculture using information technology, geo-positioning and sensing technologies; and high-throughput breeding.

  • Higher yields are key to wheat and rice. Transgenic C4 wheat and C4 rice, the best prospects for yield growth, can help close the supply-demand gap by 2040 and 2030, respectively. However, regulations on transgenic crops may hinder this potential.

  • Rich nations well endowed in agricultural resources will gain. Rich countries such as the U.S. and Canada stand to gain the most in the emerging environment, notably from modified crops with specific nutritional benefits such as low glycemic index and higher linoleic acid content.

The report, titled "Combating Malthus: Technologies to Feed 9 Billion by 2050," is part of the Lux Research Agro Innovation Intelligence service.

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Heid Hts Vic  |  July, 26, 2013 at 06:43 PM

There is a lot of focus on increasing supply of food, on diminishing resources, yet nothing is being done to address the demand. Many women world wide are being denied access to family planning, yet little is being done to address global overpopulation. Surely, more technology and efforts should be placed in areas suffering from famine and malnutrition instead of expecting scientists, and Nature, to increase outputs? There are natural limits to any growth, including human numbers.

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