7 Billion – an Inconvenient Truth

On or about today, Halloween, the world is expected to surpass 7 Billion human inhabitants. That is, plus or minus 56 million. Based on estimates from the United Nations, October 31st lies in the middle of a 12-month margin of uncertainty, wherein is is highly likely that more than 7,000,000,000 people will simultaneously be alive on this world. While babies being born today are being claimed to be the 7 billionth baby, and statisticians quibble about our lack of an accurate count of the human population and its growth rate, there’s no better day than today to stop and recognize that the human population is indeed growing. This has enormous implications for geo-politics, resource management, social studies, and of course, agriculture.
In the realm of food politics we hear claims that genetic engineering is ‘the solution‘ to world food problems, or that we just need more food per acre. We also hear that it is all about distribution or diet, and that we do not need more food to feed these people. The fact is that both of these dichotomous views are wrong. The task of adequately and consciously feeding, clothing, employing, and protecting 7 Billion people will take all of these things, and a lot more. About a month ago I watched this video created by the University of Minnesota’s Institute for the Environment – and I think it is the best video I have ever seen that sums it up. Watch it.

The Inconvenient Truth is not only that we have this huge task ahead of us, but that many of the people we need to come together to do this would rather bicker about petty political differences. Now how do we get all those people at the table without chucking food at each other?

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Written by Karl Haro von Mogel

Karl Haro von Mogel serves as BFI’s Director of Science and Media and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. He has a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from UW-Madison with a minor in Life Sciences Communication. He is a Postdoctoral Scholar at UC Riverside and works on Citrus genetics.

4 comments

  1. “many of the people we need to come together to do this would rather bicker about petty political differences.”
    Karl,
    ‘The people we need to come together’ on how to feed 7 billion would be easy to assemble and reach workable conclusions if we excluded from the process all those who are paid to bicker.
    Around the world, billion$ annually are spent on individuals and groups to support their bickering, we all know who they are. If they worked constructively with others and found solutions, they’d very quickly be unemployed.
    With no marketable skills outside of the protest industry, which would blackball them. How’d you like to be a professional activist who brokered a peace with modern agriculture? Your resume would go straight into the recycling bin, everywhere in your industry. No employment for sell-out traitors.
    Unless you’re with the WWF, which sells certification ‘holy indulgences’ to corporate interests involving ‘sustainability’. But you gotta monetize it first. If you don’t, apply for a job packing grocery bags with factory food.

  2. Here’s hoping some people actually take up this incredibly well done call to action.
    I can’t even express how frustrated I feel when people keep squabbling about things that are tiny and meaningless in comparison to the problems we face as a species. We have to work together, but I just don’t see many people who are interested 🙁

  3. One distressingly convenient thing is that the costs of not improving food production/supplies fall most heavily upon the neediest.
    They won’t be donating to Greenpeace et. al. any time soon, making their actual needs irrelevant to ‘the debate’.
    What’s worse, commercial interests in the organic industry have been able to monetize poverty-stricken farmers in the third world, helping ensuring they remain mired in food insecurity. And no, these farmers are not selling organic grains and oilseeds to Europe, they’re selling things like herbal teas, etc. and buying food on the local market. Needless to say, this does *not* improve food production/supply.

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