Farm Press Blog

One hungry planet

World population and food production in the future won't add up, unless farmers and consumers begin to take dramatic steps to insure we have enough food for the future. Doubling food production between now and 2043 is a daunting task. Failure to meet this task could result in one hungry planet.

A long-time Internet friend from Maryland sent me a web link today — made me stop and think just what a daunting task U.S. agriculture and global agriculture have in the next half century.

By 2050, even with my bad math skills that’s less than a half century, farmers worldwide will have to produce more food in one year than they have produced collectively since farming began back in 10,000 BC. That’s a lot of food and nearly 10 billion people is a lot of hungry mouths to feed. Barring some worldwide human tragedy, that’s the number farmers will be trying to feed in the next 50 years.

The link is a YouTube presentation by BASF, entitled “One Hungry Planet.” Even if you’re not a fan of YouTube, you owe it to yourself to check it out. After you collect your wits, check out the sources — all legitimate. 

My kudos to BASF — I doubt it will help them sell any products, but it should open some eyes — thanks for further opening mine. Now, how do we get non-farming consumers and more importantly, politicians to understand the reality of the future of Planet Earth?

As of early December, 29,145 people had viewed “One Hungry Planet” on YouTube. By comparison, in roughly the same time frame, 140 million had watched Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance clip on YouTube. Evidently, ‘going viral’ on the Internet has little to do with the real world challenges our children and grandchildren will face in their lifetime.

Perhaps of even more dire consequences to those of us who aren’t likely to be around in 2050, the United Nations projects by 2025, Planet Earth will have 8.5 billion human inhabitants. By that time, China and India will both have a middle class that contains more people than the entire populations of the U.S. and Western Europe.

I doubt Chinese and Indian middle classes will want much less than modern day middle class Americans and Europeans demand.

Where are we’re going to come up with all those cars, all that fuel, all those comfortable cotton clothes and most of all that highly nutritious diet of food? Sure, farmers doubled food production from 1950 to 2000 — a story that our crack modern media has seemed to miss repeatedly.

There is little doubt farmers worldwide can double food output again from 2000 to 2050. Problem is: If we double production in that time frame, we will be about 50 percent short. Reality is a lot of people will be going to bed hungry, if that happens.

In the shorter-term — 2025, we will have a slight reduction worldwide in farmland — that comes from a deputy secretary at the United Nations — the person now responsible for feeding the world. Unfortunately, the countries that have the highest production levels will lose the most farmland.

Statistics will show that under-developed countries with woefully lacking production records will balance out the loss of farming acres. Reality is that trading productive farmland and farmers for less productive land and farming technology is a lose/lose situation that will make us more than philosophically hungry for a change in food policy.

What can we do about the looming global crisis on food? Plenty! Start by helping make BASF’s YouTube clip go ‘viral’. In today’s social media, going viral is tantamount to striking gold in California in 1849 or discovering the Beatles in 1962 — the world will respond.

Send the link to all your Facebook friends, twitter it on your blog on a daily basis. Use today’s social media to tell the story that will for the next generation be much bigger than the all-time leading YouTube video — look it up — you probably won’t be surprised or amused.

Following is my Facebook post: “Friends please check out It may literally put food in the mouths of your children and grandchildren during their lifetime. And, pass the link along to everyone you know.”

Thanks Leon for the link. Bankers with a keen sense of humor and firm grasp on reality seem to be harder and harder to come by these days.


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