Too many mouths and too little time

Just a quick apology to all my regular readers. Over the last 2 months I have been taking the final exams for my degree and deciding what to do with my future! As such I have been unable to blog as frequently as I would have liked. I will be regularly posting from now, so your summers are already looking brighter!! Thanks for your patience, and feel free to get in touch!

Most (if not all) of the people reading this post consider supermarkets, greengrocers or corner shops a necessity, something that is just part of everyday life. The commotion caused when these shops close for bank holidays only emphasises that fact. During these public holidays shelves are often left empty and fresh goods go short. But what if this was more common than just on bank holidays? What if there was a national food shortage? Where would you get your food from?

The fact is, we rely upon shops for our food, and more broadly we rely upon the agricultural industry. In 2008 the UN announced that food production would have to increase 50% by 2030 to meet the demands of rising population numbers. Its 2012 now and the alarm bells are ringing. It is not the actual increase in food production that is the problem – a 50% increase is well within our means. It is the implementation of the increase that needs to be carefully considered.

Economic considerations
Firstly there is the cost of such an increase in food production. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimate investment in the agricultural industry of around US$83 billion a year is required between now and 2050, to meet the demands of the population. This investment is particularly needed in developing countries to improve the infrastructure: For example an improvement in effective production and storage. The extent of the problem in these countries is further emphasised by the lack of roads, making it difficult for farmers to obtain fertilizers and export products.

Land Use
Another issue facing world leaders is the problem of increasing food production by 50% without increasing land use for agriculture by 50%. Most endangered species are endangered because of habitat loss, and one of the most common reasons for loss of habitat is land conversion for use in agriculture. To ensure land used for agriculture does not increase at an unreasonable rate, policy makers must look to find ways of increasing productivity per unit of land. A promising way to do this would be to use genetically modified (GM) crops. While there are many concerns associated with GM crops (see: http://www.nerc.ac.uk/research/issues/geneticmodification/), this method if correctly implemented could be an ideal solution to increasing productivity.

CC
Finally, and as in all matters concerning the future, climate change needs to be considered. While rising temperatures will undoubtedly improve agriculture in some areas, those that currently farm are likely to experience a drop in productivity. This will mean new infrastructures will have to be set up, and quickly if the needs of the future population are to be met.

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