Hunger wars ahead of us

HOW will a world population of nine billion feed itself in 2050 when all the signs point to further hunger?

This was the central challenge of humanity discussed at a food security forum in Brisbane on Tuesday night.

A panel of experts painted a picture of hope amid mounting shortages, lost farmland, depleted water supplies, declining fisheries and unpredictable climate change.

“The challenge facing the world's farmers and food producers is to double output using less land, far less water, different energy, fewer nutrients and with the prospect of less technology to do so, in the teeth of a changing climate,” said science writer Professor Julian Cribb.

A failure to provide for the basic needs of nutrition and water will lead not just to mass starvation but also to wars, he said.

Prof Cribb said feeding the world for the next 50 years, which would require doubling food availability using half the water, was possibly the greatest challenge ever faced by humanity.

UN World Food Program director in Gambia, Malcolm Duthie, said the 2008 food crisis, which increased the hungry poor by 200 million and caused riots in 15 countries, should serve as a wake-up call.

Hunger is a “silent tsunami ... which kills more people daily than malaria, TB, AIDS combined”, Mr Duthie said.

“It is the number one health risk on the planet.”

National Farmers' Federation president David Crombie said world food demand would increase by 70% by 2050 and “we haven't got another green revolution around the corner” to markedly increase food production as it did in post-war years.

Mr Crombie said increased research and development, efficient use of water, biosecurity, biotechnology and genetically modified crops could all provide solutions to increase food production.

Speakers also professed concern over land being converted from food to biofuel production and the massive waste of food in developed countries like Australia, where up to half of nutritional value is wasted.

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