Trade and tech are the solution to the world's food crisis

USAID/Tanzania

Article Highlights

  • The UN reported that with global food prices rising, food shortages will likely emerge in developing countries by 2013.

    Tweet This

  • In honor of #WFD2012, @NickSchulz gets serious about one of the greatest humanitarian challenges of our time.

    Tweet This

  • It is possible to feed a rising population, but policymakers must embrace technology and trade to do so.

    Tweet This

  • Technology and trade will make a sustainable planet a reality. #WFD2012 @NickSchulz

    Tweet This

The United Nations recently reported that, with global food prices rising, food shortages will likely emerge in developing countries at the end of this year and into 2013. And with today being World Food Day, we must get serious about one of the greatest humanitarian challenges of our time: feeding a global population that is expected to grow nearly 50 percent and top 10 billion people by the year 2050.

It is possible to feed a rising population, one that is demanding more calories and nutrients. But to do so, policymakers must embrace technology and trade, the two forces that are powerful enough to meet the formidable challenge ahead.

New technology is the key to modernising farm production. With state-of-the-art methods of planting, land management, crop production, and animal husbandry, it is possible to increase yields while minimising the environmental footprint.

Witness the tremendous increases in crop yields over the twentieth century in Europe and North America. These regions were able to adequately feed their people, and even export food to others, all while using a steadily diminishing amount of land under cultivation over time.

In the twenty-first century we are now seeing improved yields in the developing world. Some of the most extraordinary gains have come in Africa and southeast Asia. There we find farmers leveraging the efficiencies of plantation-scale agriculture, coupled with the productivity enhancements of drought-resistant technologies, to boost yields of rice, fruits, cooking oil, and other staple crops.

But this transformational power of technology must be linked to increased global trade. It does no nation any good to improve its production if it creates a surplus that can’t be sold in other countries. This is why policymakers must focus on removing barriers to trade.

The UK understands the importance of agriculture trade. UK farmers only produce a little over half the food consumed by the population, with the rest made up by imports from continental Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.

Despite this, some environmental activist groups, like Greenpeace and WWF, are hostile to rapidly scaling up agriculture in the developing world, believing it to be unsustainable. As such, they are hoping to limit the use of yield-enhancing technologies like gene splicing. Some even hope to block some foods produced in poor countries – like beef, fish, vegetable oil, and others – from the markets of the wealthy West.

This is shortsighted. The only truly unsustainable course is one that limits agricultural yields and blocks trade. Such a path ensures that millions of people will go hungry.

True sustainability will arrive when the millions of small farmers in developing nations are empowered to fully modernise their agriculture systems, and they can follow the same path as the rich nations of Europe and North America. Technology and trade will make a sustainable planet a reality.

Nick Schulz is DeWitt Wallace fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of From Poverty to Prosperity.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine
About the Author

 

Nick
Schulz

What's new on AEI

Expanding opportunity in America
image Moving beyond fear: Addressing the threat of the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria
image Foreign policy is not a 'CSI' episode
image The Air Force’s vital role
AEI on Facebook
Events Calendar
  • 21
    MON
  • 22
    TUE
  • 23
    WED
  • 24
    THU
  • 25
    FRI
Monday, July 21, 2014 | 9:15 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Closing the gaps in health outcomes: Alternative paths forward

Please join us for a broader exploration of targeted interventions that provide real promise for reducing health disparities, limiting or delaying the onset of chronic health conditions, and improving the performance of the US health care system.

Monday, July 21, 2014 | 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Comprehending comprehensive universities

Join us for a panel discussion that seeks to comprehend the comprehensives and to determine the role these schools play in the nation’s college completion agenda.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 | 8:50 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder process

Please join AEI’s Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy for a conference to address key steps we can take, as members of the global community, to maintain a free Internet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Expanding opportunity in America: A conversation with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan

Please join us as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveils a new set of policy reforms aimed at reducing poverty and increasing upward mobility throughout America.

Event Registration is Closed
Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Is it time to end the Export-Import Bank?

We welcome you to join us at AEI as POLITICO’s Ben White moderates a lively debate between Tim Carney, one of the bank’s fiercest critics, and Tony Fratto, one of the agency’s staunchest defenders.

Event Registration is Closed
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled today.
No events scheduled this day.
No events scheduled this day.