Food Security Fears Clash With Environmental Goals

Recent fears over food security and the growing global population are causing friction within the scientific community as researchers, policy makers, and farmers argue the merits of increased agricultural chemical use.

Recent United Nations reports have raised serious questions about the ability of current agricultural production to feed the growing global population. By 2050, some experts predict, the population may rise to over 9 billion. Without significantly increased food production, food insecurity, hunger, and famine could become the norm across the world.

In addition to a humanitarian crisis, food insecurity can lead to political instability. Hunger has been linked to food riots over the past several years across the developing world. Several of the recent revolutionary movements in the Middle East and North Africa began as food riots and protests over rising food prices.

In order to keep the growing population fed, agricultural experts believe that agricultural production will have to double over the next fifty years. One way that farmers hope to achieve this is through increased use of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers.

Many scientists, however, are speaking out against the consequences of increased dependence on chemicals. Increased fertilizer use, for example, has been linked to excess nitrogen in waterways and contaminated drinking water in several states. Some insecticides have been linked to various cancers, and scientists are worried about potential effects of increased chemical pollution that have not yet been discovered.

In addition to health risks, the increased use of herbicides and insecticides has led to increased resistances among pests and weeds. Earlier this month, twenty-two U.S. plant scientists wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency warning that some strains of biotech corn are losing their resistances to plant-damaging pests.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer