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National Geographic examines the challenge of feeding the world

October 28, 2014

“With the population expected to rise by about a third by 2050, crop production worldwide will need to double to keep up with the rising demand for grains – which are also fed to animals – as the developing world becomes prosperous enough to eat more meat” warned an article published in National Geographic on 3 October. The article, “Here’s Why We Haven’t Quite Figured Out How to Feed Billions More People” by Dennis Dilmick, addressed the growing need for investment in agricultural research while lamenting the lack of public funding and interest in such initiatives in recent years.

Dilmick praised CIMMYT and Norman Borlaug for their work that saved millions from starvation during the Green Revolution, and argued that similar action is still needed today in a world that faces rising food prices and an uncertain future climate. Advances in biotechnology can help to keep up with the demand, but must be combined with the provision of appropriate, usable information to farmers in the developing world, that can help them improve their yields and livelihoods. This cannot be done without increases in public funding for agricultural research.

A new Green Revolution is in order, Dilmick argues, but one based more on small incremental changes that can provide huge benefits to farmers in developing countries such as improved post-harvest management practices, the use of new mobile technology to communicate information and better roads and markets; rather than the research breakthroughs that characterized the original revolution. However, one element of the original revolution must stay the same: “When Norman Borlaug worked to develop high-yield ‘Green Revolution’ wheat varieties more than 50 years ago, he was driven by a sense of urgency. We could all benefit by adopting his sense of urgency in making agricultural research a priority once again.”