Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Real Issues Plowed under at Food Summit

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Real Issues Plowed under at Food Summit

Article excerpt

Last month's World Food Summit didn't need to fail, but it did. The summit produced no clear strategy for feeding the world, no new urgency for doing it and no new funding to help achieve it. Instead, the summit was mired in the usual U.N. swamp of political correctness.

The food summit could have offered the world another chance to perform a miracle comparable to the Green Revolution.

How? By recommending two strategies: free trade of farm products and renewed investment in agriculture research and technology. The Green Revolution saved billions of people from famine in the 1960s and 1970s. It also helped save millions of square miles of wildlife habitat from being plowed under by low-yield farmers. High-yield agricultural research tripled yields on the best land, doubled food output overall and boosted per-capita calories in the Third World by one-third. It also radically cut the cost of food for the poor. The cost? A few hundred million dollars for Third World agricultural research centers. Anybody who's looked at birth statistics in the last decade realizes that the Green Revolution gave human society time to lower its birth rates without destroying wildlands to feed the growing population. The world's crops occupy no more land today than they did in 1960. The Third World has come three-fourths of the way to population stability, and world population will peak at well under 9 billion people before the year 2050. The world is getting richer and more urban quickly, and its parents wi ll average less than two kids apiece. However, rich urban people eat well. They want lots of meat, milk and fresh fruit. They want lots of fast-food restaurants. They want wardrobes full of cotton jeans and shirts. These wants require farming resources that we don't have now. Thus we'll either have to create new farming power through research and technology or have to plow millions of square miles of wildlife habitat to make room for more low-yield farming. The momentum of population growth can't be stopped immediately, any more than you can stop the momentum of a heavy freight train immediately. But the brakes are set on the population train. The real challenge remaining is to produce enough food and fiber for 8 billion or 9 billion people. If we stopped population growth today, we'd still have to roughly double the world's farm output over the next few years to bring consumers in China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and Nigeria up to 21st-century living standards. The focus in Rome was fear of population. Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute held a news conference for 100 fawning reporters, and said, "All it would take is one letter to the U.N. Population Fund saying `Help!"' None of the reporters was politically incorrect enough to ask what good that would do. …

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