World May go hungry if population growth continues (OCT)

13 October 2000

Media Releases 2000

Many countries and regions may experience hunger if population growth continues to outstrip growth in food production, according to Australians for an Ecologically Sustainable Population (AESP).

Speaking on the eve of World Food Day (October 16), National President of AESP, Dr Harry Cohen, said that the annual growth in grain production dropped to only one percent in the 1990s after averaging 2.1 per cent per annum in the forty years before 1990.

“Currently, global population is growing at 1.4 per cent a year, more than growth in food production,” says Dr Cohen. “There are over six billion people on the planet now, by 2025 there will be 7.8 billion and by 2050 nine billion.

“How are we going to feed these extra three billion? Traditionally the world’s food has come from rangelands, croplands and fisheries yet the productivity of rangelands and of oceans have already reached their limits,” he says.

There is unlikely to be any net increase in croplands, according to Dr Cohen. “Some new land will come into production in coming years, but this will be off-set by losses to desertification, salinisation or pollution. Thus, the bulk of future increases will have to come from increased yields,” he says.

Yet increasing yields is heavily dependent on adequate supplies of water. Irrigated lands, which currently supply 40 per cent of the world’s food, are threatened by falling water tables, silting of dams and poorly maintained infrastructure.

“To make matters worse, as populations grow and industries develop, water is diverted from agriculture for residential and industrial purposes,” says Dr Cohen. “Many water-short North African and Mid-East countries are already in this situation, putting pressure on the world food market.

“As prices inevitably rise, poor countries will find it even harder to buy food. Yet according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, 792 million people in the developing world and 34 million in the developed world are already undernourished,” says Dr Cohen.

Whether the world will have enough to eat in the coming decades will be conditional on technological advances, on climate change not affecting agriculture adversely, and countries stabilising their populations as soon as possible, according to Dr Cohen.

“It is critical, therefore, that global population growth rates drop below growth rates in food production as soon as possible. There is no guarantee that we can avoid climatic disruption or that technology will deliver significant increases in yield,” he concluded.

Further information: Dr Harry Cohen, Ph(mobile): 0407 426 987


Media Releases 2000
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