On The Brink Of A New Agricultural Revolution?

An article quoting Dr Brian Keating speaking at the Australian Society of Agronomy Conference under the title "On The Brink Of A New Agricultural Revolution" says:

"In a keynote address to the Australian Society of Agronomy Conference, the Director of CSIRO's Agricultural Sustainability Initiative, Dr Brian Keating, said there is evidence that rates of increase in agricultural productivity are easing both in Australia and overseas."

The .

That doesn't sound like a "revolution"... The article then states that...

"With the United Nations predicting the world population to increase by 2.5 billion by 2050 and with dramatic changes in food consumption patterns associated with economic development in Asia, there is an urgent need to face up to the challenge of doubling food production over the next 50 years."

Uh, huh. World population now about 6.72 billion.

says the world population in 2050 is likely to be:

Median variant: 9.191 billion

Low variant: 7.792 billion

Personally, I'll put my money on the low variant.

How cheery do we feel about economic development in Asia to 2050 and the "dramatic changes" it will bring in food consumption patterns?

We then read...

"We are going to need a 'revolution' in agricultural productivity over the coming decades to meet these challenges - particularly in terms of the efficiency with which we use land, water, nutrient and energy resources in agricultural production," Dr Keating said.

Well, we could be adding a little over a billion people and we could have a food consumption revolution in the direction of eating less animal protein. That's just as probable a prognosis for 2050, isn't it? In that case, productivity might have to increase, but production would not necessarily have to. So I agree with the mentioned efficiencies, but the article doesn't say very much about how Dr Keating thinks they will be achieved, except to say that, "he is optimistic that agricultural science and industry innovation is up to these challenges."

That's reassuring. Since in a world where apalling hunger and mass over-consumption of food exist almost side by side one of the most serious problems is how to distribute food more equitably, perhaps we could also come up with some social policies to deal with this issue. If not, even if we double the food supply by 2050, what's going to prevent a doubling of the number of starving while we get a doubling of the obese at the same time?

Dr Keating might benefit from a reading of The Final Energy Crisis (2nd Ed.), published recently, as he will find that he really should introduce a few more variables into his equations in order to get a more realistic approximation of where humanity is headed this century.