Halt population growth and feed the world – maybe (OCT)

15 October 2001

Media Releases 2001

Oct 15, 2001 for World Food Day – 16 October

It may not be possible to feed a projected population of nine billion people, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).

Increased use of petroleum, for both farm machinery and fertiliser manufacture, has doubled agricultural yields over the past 50 years.

“Unfortunately, as global supplies of petroleum peak between 2008 and 2012, we are likely to see the price rise,” says Dr John Coulter, national vice president of SPA. “This will have a significant impact on agricultural production, particularly in those poorer countries that have been persuaded to adopt western farming practices.

“We will have to give agriculture priority with the remaining petroleum supplies,” says Dr Coulter. “We need to recognise, however, that industrialised agriculture as we know it is not sustainable and we must move to systems that are.”

“With US-style broad acre farming, for every kilogram of corn produced, three kilograms of soil is lost. For every kilogram of wheat produced, five kilograms of soil is lost. The US state of Ohio, one of the most productive food producers in the world, has lost half of it original six metres of top-soil.”

Dr Coulter said that water is also a limiting factor for future agricultural production.

“Water tables are falling in key food producing countries,” he says. “Lester Brown of the Earth Institute claims that 480 million of the world’s 6.1 billion people are being fed with grain produced by overpumping aquifers. When aquifers run dry, farmers have to forgo irrigation and revert to dryland farming which is not nearly as productive.”

Dr Coulter says food production may also be adversely affected by climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, and accelerating loss of biodiversity. The latter is likely to affect pest of crops and livestock.

“With half of the world’s rangelands deteriorating and becoming desert and two thirds of the world’s fisheries being fished at or beyond capacity, we are at risk of not being able to feed even the current population. Yet nearly one quarter of million extra mouths have to be fed every day.

“If people are to be fed properly everywhere, an end to population growth is imperative,” Dr Coulter says. “Australia must control its own population and simultaneously substantially increase foreign aid aimed primarily toward helping other nations control theirs. Together we must find and adopt ways of making food production sustainable.”

Further information:

Dr John Coulter, Ph: 08 8388 2153 E: vp@population.org.au

Jenny Goldie (SPA National Director) Ph: 02 6235 5488 E: info@population.org.au


Media Releases 2001
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