Solutions for a Growing Population
According to the US Census Bureau, the world population will increase to over 9 billion by 2050. One of the major problems that the world will face will be hunger. Currently one in seven people do not receive the proper nutrients and proteins, what would that number be like by 2050? With more people, there will be less land for agriculture and increased agricultural yield may lead to deforestation. Still, many scientists believe that there are plenty of ways countries can improve their yields.
With little land available for food production, scientists have been looking to alternative methods of increasing crop yield. One of the ideas that they are pushing is the increased use of GM crops. While there are still very little studies done on the effects of GM crops on humans, the ever increasing temperatures may eventually make it difficult to grow different plant varieties. Several GM crops already exhibit improved temperature, drought pest and salinity tolerance. Not only would this increase crop yield, it could also reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers, some of the major contributors to water and overall pollution [Source: Telegraph]. Other scientists are concentrating on improving selective breeding. UK scientists have decoded the wheat genome and hopes that this will help create efficient breeding programs and create more productive, resource-efficient varieties of the plant [Source: MercoPress].
Besides plants, scientists have also looked into improving protein yields through various methods. One of these methods is growing artificial meat in large vats. In 2009, researchers in the Netherlands created the first artificial meat, a soggy pork. Cells from a pig are combined in a broth with other animal products. The cells then multiply and create muscle tissue. Unfortunately, the produced meat is more like wasted muscle tissue though ideas to simulate exercise for the muscle is underway. The artificial meat could also reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions caused by livestock, which currently stands at 18 percent of the world’s emissions. [Source: Telegraph]. Artifical meat has appealed to many vegetarians and even organizations like PETA have turned their attention to potential breakthroughs. In 2008, PETA donated $1 million to the first scientist who can create a sufficient market for in vitro chiken in ten states. While PETA has been notoriously anti-meat, their viewpoint is more focused to the actual slaughtering and treatment of the livestock. With the introduction of artificial meat, there is only a slab of meat that is cloned from the original animal. The manufactured meat could also be loaded with essential nutrients and vitamins, reducing the necessity for certain types of vegetables. In vitro meat is nothing new and has in fact been added to various meat substitutes (like soy burgers) to give it a meatier texture and taste [Source: PETA]. For many, the idea of eating lab-created meat might not be as attractive. It would be difficult to tell which meat was lab grown and which was not without proper labelling, and without proper oversight, it is hard to know what animal products actually go in this broth (Soylent Green, anyone?). For those on the more conservative side, other organizations have been pushing aquaculture. Modadagu Gupta, a scientist from India, was able to teach villagers all around Asia how to utilize roadside ditches, ponds and other unused bodies of water to raise fish. Not only has it improved nutrition for the families, it also brought in income for many of these small farmers. In Bangladesh alone, the villagers were able to increase production from 300 kilograms per hectare to more than 5,000 kilograms per hectare in a matter of months [Source: America.gov].
While using technology to improve food yield is important, perhaps the single most important thing is to reduce population. Currently, there are twenty countries around the world that have a negative or zero natural population growth: Japan, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, Estonia, Moldova, Croatia, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Greece [About.com]. Not only will reducing population improve food security, it would reduce the amount of pollution and greenhouse gas.