Preventing starvation
by Calvin Trent

A recent study by the DuPont Advi sory Committee on Agricultural Innovation and Productivity said that the current population growth vs.consumption of food is not sustainable. The report is projecting a 23% increase in the global population to more than 9 billion by 2050, with nearly all the growth coming from the developing world where agricultural productivity is relatively low, such as sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. “Global food production must be 70% greater than today’s level to close the deficit (gap) between supply and demand,” the study said. This is a “productivity gap” that must be closed “without using substantially more land.”

The first Green Revolution used hybrid seeds, modern crop management and chemical fertilizers and pesticides to save millions of lives. But what can we do now to prevent starvation?

One method that is more environmentally friendly is to treat seeds with herbicides and pesticides rather than waiting for them to grow into mature plants. The plants that come from treated seeds already incorporate these chemicals. And since the chemicals are put in the plant itself, not the surrounding soil, there is virtually no risk of runoff polluting nearby rivers and streams. It is not a perfect solution, because some pests on maturing plants will not be affected by seed treatments and can destroy crops. But “seed treatment is one of the fastest-growing parts of agriculture,” says Duncan Aust, global innovation director of FMC Corporation’s Agricultural Solutions.

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