The Big Picture: Demands of a Growing World Population
The Earth's population doubled in less than 50 years, to
reach 6 billion in 1999 (Population Division of the Dept. of Economic and Social
Affairs of the United Nations, 1999). With the world population growing at an
estimated 80-100 million people each year, and with its standard of living
increasing, demand for food products is expected to dramatically increase in
the next few years. For example, the U.N. projects that China's population
alone will increase to 1.591 billion people by 2025, a 40% increase over 1990's
1.137 billion people. Furthermore, China's standard of living has been steadily
rising, resulting in a gradual - but massive - switch from a predominantly
vegetarian diet to a meat diet.
This will place a tremendously increased
demand on the world market for calories and protein to meet the animal feed
market in China alone. For example, about 40% of the maize consumed in China
in 1990 was fed to animals. By 2025, even in a sluggish economy, it is estimated
that 70 of the maize will be fed to animals. (Simpson et al., 1994, "China's
Livestock and Related Agriculture: Projections to 2025", CAB International).
Agricultural biotechnology may be the only safe way to increase crop yields to
meet the demand. As a result, revenues of Agricultural Biotechnology firms are expected to
grow from $3.92 billion today to $8.39 billion by 2002. (Source: www.buscom.com).
Chemical pest controls alone cannot solve the problem. Though they are inherently
deadly to the organisms they are intended
to kill, they are often toxic to other organisms besides the intended target. Some
are thought to damage even the physical environment. For example, the widely used
and highly toxic gas methyl bromide is thought to attack the earth's ozone lazyer,
and thereby contribute to the increasing rates of skin cancer world-wide. It is
scheduled to be banned in the U.S. in 3 years time, although its use may be
extended to year 2005 because there are no suitable alternatives for this
chemical control agent. There are many other such examples. For U.S. agriculture
to remain competitive, let alone help meet the crop yield improvement demanded by
a growing world population, nonchemical pest control methods must be developed,
Enough for All?
Asia's rice farms cannot fulfill the demands
of its burgeoning population through traditional productivity advances alone.
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