Earth Day, agriculture go hand in hand
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The 40th anniversary of Earth Day is a perfect time to celebrate some of the Earth's greatest gifts -- food, and the hard-working men and women who feed our ever-growing global population, while using fewer resources than they...
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The 40th anniversary of Earth Day is a perfect time to celebrate some of the Earth's greatest gifts -- food, and the hard-working men and women who feed our ever-growing global population, while using fewer resources than they did 40 years ago.
Today, through the use of responsible, efficient, food-production systems that produce more food using fewer resources, farmers produce 28 percent more eggs with 13 percent fewer hens than in 1970; 176 percent more pork per sow with 44 percent fewer sows; 69 percent more wheat on 6 percent fewer acres; and 62 percent more milk with 23 percent fewer cows.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, we currently are consuming food at the rate of 1.25 planets. If China develops as expected, that rate increases to two planets by the mid-2030s. If all other developing countries continue the current projected path of growth and consumption, that becomes 11 planets. All of this at a time when we currently are adding 6.3 million people to the planet every month, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Based on projections from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, we need to double food production in the next 50 years. According to the United Nations, 80 percent of future production growth must come from increased yields, roughly 10 percent from higher cropping density and 10 percent from expanded land use. We won't meet the growing demand for food by slowing improvements in productivity, as some have proposed. To do so, and protect land not currently in production, we have to continue to produce more, using less through innovation and the responsible use of technology. The good news is that America's farmers have been doing that for decades.
The public has a right to expect these food producers to act responsibly in delivering U.S. consumers the most affordable food supply in the world, and a array of options from which to choose. But those who suggest the entire food system should be slowed down or rolled back 40 or more years are risking dangerous, unintended consequences. Decisions that limit the ability to increase productivity will have immediate and long-lasting consequences on food affordability, availability and the environment in the United States and around the world.
So learn more about food production and nutrition; better understand the consequences of market and political decisions that limit productivity; and be supportive of responsible, efficient production systems that allow us to feed more, using less. That's the ethical choice for people, animals and the planet.
Editor's note: Arnot is the CEO of the Center for Food Integrity in Kansas City, Mo.