How To Feed Ten Billion People?
by Dr. Ruth Delzeit, Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Session Organizer for “Food Security through more Intense Crop Production” at GES 2015
In 2050 there will live about ten billion people on earth
How to feed these ten billion people? Valentin Thurn 1 puts this question on the big screen. In his new film 10 Milliarden – Wie werden wir alle satt (How to feed 10 billion?) he takes the audience to various regions around the world and discusses possible solutions of how to feed a growing population. Of course, the answer of the biotech industry is that one way to reach this goal are genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the answer of producers of mineral fertilizers is to provide fertilizers to all, and the Indian chicken industry is proud to have growth rates of 20% to provide proteins to the population. This is confronted with drawback of these solutions: risks of GMOs and unsustainable use and ending of resources.
In general Thurn sees the consumption of meat – which is known to use multiple more inputs per calories compared to vegetables – not as a solution but a problem. He visits a soy bean plantation in Mozambique, where international companies grow animal feed at costs of the local population and the environment. He discusses the problem of low and high agricultural prices and the speculation on stock markets.
But Thurn does not only show problems, but also potential solutions to the problems. Small towns in southern England grow food on public areas, there are initiatives for urban agriculture or participatory farming. He visits different organic farmers in Germany, and villages in India where farmers go back to using traditional seeds and diversify their crop production. But can these grass-root initiatives feed the growing population? Thurn comes to the arguable solution that poor countries should be isolated from global markets such that they are not affected by price volatilities. He favours regional and organic production systems, where regions are self-sufficient. This solution is arguable because protectionism in e.g. Latin America has shown no improvements of food security in the long run. Protectionism is costly for these poor countries. Abolishing or reducing the large agricultural support schemes in industrialized countries would be a more promising option. More details and other possible solutions to secure the demand for food and biomass by a growing population will be discussed at this year‘s GES, in the session “Food Security through more Intense Crop Production”.
The film by Valentin Thurn can offer a good introduction to the topic. Information and arguments are not new for interested people, but Valentin Thurn confronts solution proposals from the agro-industry with alternative measures with illustrative examples. Quite good about the film is that people did not go home with a feeling of “oh, the problem is so big, what do we do now?”, but they went home with the feeling that they can do something. What can you do?