Kansas FFA Blog

Will food be affordable in the year 2050?

It’s that time of year again! The air is warming up, and farmers are heading back to the field. All the fields have been fertilized in anticipation of the growing season. The ground has been worked with care to prepare a seed bed. Finally, the seeds have been planted, kicking off a new growing season. In choosing when to plant and work or selecting seeds and fertilizer the decisions can be based on numbers. Not just any numbers, but numbers taken and collected to provide the absolute best data possible. These are essentially statistics for the different seeds. Statistics and data are a huge part of the world we live in. They are used as decision-making tools and as proof to back up ideas in an argument. A piece of data or a statistic familiar to those in agriculture, is the population growth expected by 2050. Depending on the source, the world population is predicted to grow to nearly 9.8 billion people. This is often the reason given for needing to drastically increase the amount of grain, meat, and dairy products our country produces. I do agree, the change in population is a significant issue for the future of agriculture and our world. However, I have learned we may be asking the wrong question. The usual question is,” Will we be able to produce enough food to feed the world by 2050?”

The question that could be more appropriate is, “Will food be affordable in the year 2050?” In history, it was not uncommon for people to predict that the world population would grow in a significant enough amount that it would outrun agricultural production. A man by the name of Thomas Malthus predicted that when this happened, famine would bring the population back to a sustainable level. Malthus and his followers have predicted this more than once but have failed to be accurate.  With continual growth in population, amount of food demanded could certainly outrun supply. With technological innovations and changes in ability to grow we have been able to produce food to keep up with our population growth. Even though this will continue, if supply decreases enough the price of our food will increase. While this won’t bring the earth to famine, the many people who live on extremely low incomes will not be able to feed themselves or their families.

Several scenarios are brought up as solutions to this problem. The first, is to stop feeding grains to livestock. This seems like the logical choice-it takes many pounds of grain and a ton of energy to produce only one pound of meat. The flaw however, is that the highest consumption of meat tends to come from areas of higher income. They likely would continue to purchase meat, even at higher prices continuing to create demand. And those eating the grain diverted from livestock may still have an inadequate diet. The second, concerns the vast amount of food waste. We’ve all heard the statistics. The common estimates are that around 30% of food is wasted. Some would even say higher. Be cautioned-check the definition of these statistics. In some instances, any grain that is fed to livestock or used to make fuels is considered waste. While this does mean these grains are not consumed directly by humans, I don’t believe that this is waste. I also am not saying that food waste is not an issue, it just may not be as significant as some would think. Being wasteful of food is poor stewardship of our resources, but that’s another topic. Regardless, eliminating food waste alone won’t not solve our problem.

Will food be affordable in the year 2050? There is a ton of speculation, estimates, and ideas about this problem. There are also many viable options to solve this problem. Technology is great, but it may not be enough. The hope is in the future of agriculture. The answer to this question lies in the ability of future generations to answer the question differently. The answer is in us, the FFA members. No matter our background or our goals in life we all have the ability to contribute to the answers to this question and the many other questions that plague the future. How will we answer this question?

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