Franz Fischler’s plan to banish starvation hits all the right notes, yet he also reinforces three myths about food security that distract from the real issues.
The first is that expanding food supply will be an insuperable problem. People increasingly ask whether the world can really produce enough to satisfy the explosion of demand from more people with the income to buy meat, dairy, fish and other proteins? And whether constraints on land, water and other resources mean we are reaching the limits of agricultural production? The short answer to these is, “yes” the world can produce enough food, and “no” we’re not yet reaching binding constraints.
According to the U.S. Agriculture Department, world grain production has risen from 824m tonnes in 1960 to around 2.2bn tones last year. There have been some fluctuations, but production has remained steady with 27m tonnes being added to production every year. This trend suggests that by 2050 the increase in grain production relative to today would be exactly 50%, the target Fischler sets as the global goal. In other words, major reform is not needed as we already have far better agronomic practices, seeds and fertilisers than ever. The one disclaimer has to be climate change. But that is still so unpredictable in its impact on agriculture that it has to be treated as a “wild card”.