Since 1970, the First World has for the most part taken food abundance for granted. 1970 was the year that Norman Borlaug won the Nobel Peace Prize for starting the Green Revolution. He spearheaded the effort by agricultural researchers that quickly tripled food yields from most of the world’s good cropland. Borlaug was credited with saving one billion people from starvation. Today, high-yield agriculture is keeping five billion people from starvation. Borlaug’s work radically increased per capita food supplies despite a rapidly expanding human population, buffered us against inevitable crop losses due to bad weather, and gave us confidence in our future food production.
Today, however, food prices have soared, and computer models are predicting lower crop yields during a hotter future. Universities are holding food and hunger seminars again. At New York University, students said they would vote to outlaw meat in favor of soybean cultivation for the soon-to-be hungry.1
In June, Oxfam concluded that “the world food system is broken.”2 This seems a rather harsh charge against a food system that feeds billions of people with better diets than ever before—but Oxfam is in the hunger business. This public anguish is good because in the next 40 years the world’s farmers must again triple the yields on the world’s good cropland. They will need public support for the high-yield farming research that will be the only way to avoid both famine and a massive plow down of wildlands.
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