Presentation in Winnipeg to the Canadain Association of Agri-Retailers
. . . farms obliterate empty places, ploughed fields vanquish forests, herds drive out wild beasts. . . and there are such great cities where formerly hardly a hut . . . everywhere there is a dwelling,
everywhere a multitude. . . . We are burdensome to the world. The resources are scarcely adequate to us . . . already nature does not sustain us. Truly, pestilence and hunger and war and flood must be considered as a remedy for nations, like a pruning back of the human race becoming excessive in numbers.
Quintus Septimus Florence Tertillianus, Roman citizen, about 200 A.D., with a world population about 200 million.
“. . . the Western World today is on the verge of the greatest ecological renewal that humankind has known; perhaps the greatest that the Earth has known. Environmentalists deserve the credit for this remarkable turn of events. Yet our political and cultural institutions continue to read from a script of instant doomsday. Environmentalists, who are surely on the right side of history, are increasingly on the wrong side of the present, risking their credibility by proclaiming emergencies that do not exist.”
Greg Easterbrook, A Moment on Earth, 1995, p. xvi, with the world population 30 times as large and still increasing
“Here’s something for the Greens of the world to ponder: ‘genetic engineering’ may be the most environmentally beneficial technology to have emerged in decades, or possibly centuries,’ Jonathan Rauch writes in The Atlantic Monthly. . . . Noting that ‘world food output will need to at
least double and possibly triple over the next several decades,’ the author argues that ‘the great challenge’ is ‘not to feed an additional three billion people (and their pets) but to do so without converting much of the world’s prime [wildlife] habitat into second- or third-rate farmland.’”
New York Times, “Frankenfoods to the Rescue of Mother Earth,” September 21, 2003
The Environmental Movement’s Record of Untruths
1. Myth: High-Yield Farming Threatens the Frogs
In 1995, a group of Minnesota school children visited a local pond, and found deformed frogsâ€”too many legs or too few. They reported it on the Internet, and over the next three years reports of deformed frogs flooded in from across the country. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency quickly decided it must be pesticides in the water, and spent millions of dollars trying to prove it. Now, we’ve learned that the frogs are deformed because of a natural parasite, the trematode, which burrows into the developing leg joints of the tadpoles. Frogs don’t become deformed in ponds that don’t have trematodes. Pesticides were not the cause, though the Minnesota officials still refuse to admit this.
In the mountains of California, red-legged and yellow-legged frogs are often absent from the lakes. Several researchers are trying to prove that pesticide-laden dust from the Central Valley is being blown up into the lakes and killing the frogs. Indeed, traces of various pesticides were found in the mountain waters. However, the U.S. Forest Service and the University of California/Berkeley have now proved the cause of the frog decline: hungry trout. In the high lakes stocked with trout, there are no frogs. The aggressive fish eat the frog’s eggs and tadpoles. In the lakes no longer stocked with trout, the frogs thrive. When researchers netted all the fish out of a lake without frogs, the frog population “exploded,” even though there were still traces of pesticides in the water.
2. Myth: Farming and Logging Caused the Salmon Decline in the Pacific Northwest
The salmon numbers in the Columbia River of Oregon and Washington began to decline in 1977. Environmentalists were quick to blame overfishing, logging, and the water demands and pollution from irrigated farming. State and federal governments began spending billions of dollars on logging restrictions, fish ladders, and barging young fish down to the sea. Nothing helped. But in the fall of 2002, the Columbia River had a record salmon run, and the salmon numbers have recovered to their former abundance.
The salmon catch data for the past 100 years of the Columbia River and Gulf of Alaska fisheries clearly reveal a 25-year cycle. For 25 years at a time, the Pacific currents take the salmon food to the Gulf of Alaska, while the Oregon/Washington salmon fishery shrinks. Then, for the next 25 years, the Oregon/Washington salmon fishermen flourish, while the Gulf of Alaska shrinks.
Did the Sierra Club not know about the cycle? In that case, we can’t trust their advice on fish management. Or did they know about the cycle and not tell usâ€”in which case we can’t trust their advice on fish management.
3. Myth: Fertilizer from the Midwest Threatens the Gulf of Mexico
During the Clinton Administration, a White House Task Force recommended a 30 percent cut in Midwest fertilizer use because of a so-called “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. Fortunately, the task force admitted in its report that it could find no evidence of either ecological or economic harm to the Gulf from the summer algae bloom that causes the “dead zone.” The first reports of such algae blooms in the Gulf go back into the 19th century. Fisheries experts say that most of the nutrients for the Gulf’s vast, rich fishery come down the Mississippi River. Such hypoxic zones are a common feature at the mouths of 40 major rivers around the world, where fresh, nutrient-laden water hits salt water. Under such conditions, the laws of biology and physics guarantee periodic algae blooms.
Know also that Midwest fertilizer use has not risen since 1980, while the yields from the corn that gets most of the N fertilizer have risen 25 percent. Obviously, more of the farm fertilizer is being harvested as corn. More of the Midwest’s poultry and livestock have been moved indoors, where their wastes are carefully collected and spread on growing crops. If the “dead zone” is expanding, which is in serious doubt, where is the additional N coming from? The sewage treatment plants of St. Louis and Kansas City?
Don’t forget either, that before farmers settled the Great Plains, the grasslands there had 60 million bison, 100 million antelope, billions of birds and grasshoppers, all eating the grass and defecating. The N may have taken longer to reach the Gulf, but it’s likely that Cortez could have found an algal bloom in the Gulf of Mexico when he invaded Mexico in 1520.
4. Myth: Modern Farming Causes Soil Erosion
In a piece of elegant ‘soil archeology,” Dr. Stanley Trimble of UCLA went back to the highly-erosive Coon Creek watershed in southern Wisconsin, and redid the 1938 Soil Conservation Service surveys, in the 1970s and again in the 1990s.. What he found is that the Coon Creek watershed is currently losing only 6 percent as much topsoil as it lost during the Dust Bowl era. Thanks to crop rotation, contour plowing and especially to conservation tillage, the Coon Creek watershed is building topsoil in the midst of the highest-yielding farming in all history. Dr. Trimble says those who claim high rates of soil erosion “owe us the physical evidence.” They owe us the locations of the huge gullies, the sediment-filled creeks and the dust clouds that would attest to their soil crisis. The fact is that they lack such evidence because modern farmers are doing a better, more sustainable, more productive job of farming today than ever before in history.
5. Myth: Farmers Caused Overpopulation By Producing Too Much Food
Environmentalists believe that high-yield farming is the root cause of global overpopulation. The reality, however, is that the population growth surge started before the Green Revolution. It started in the 1950s, powered by public health interventions such as vaccinations, clean water, sewage treatment, antibioticsâ€”and yes, DDT. It was lower death rates, not higher crop yields, which caused the population surge.
At the same time, fortunately, the food security produced by high-yield farming helped bring about the first major decline in human birth rates the world has ever seen. Higher crop yields started a circle of reduced hunger risks, more food to support off-farm jobs, and affluent urban couples having 1.7 births each.
In 1960, the average woman in the Third World had 6.2 children. Today, she has 2.7, and since population stability is 2.1 births, the poor countries have come 75 percent of the way to stability in 34 years. No one in 1960 would have dared predict such a radical drop in birth rates. After 2050, the world’s human population will begin a slow decline.
6. Myth: Modern Farming is Destroying the World’s Plant Biodiversity
Eco-activists like to claim that high-yield farming is destroying the world’s biodiversity. By that they mean that farmers in the Third World tend to plant better, modern seeds when they can get them, forsaking the thousands of “farmer varieties” they used to plant. But those low yielding seeds aren’t original species. They couldn’t survive in the wild. And we have most of those varieties saved in seed banks.
The real challenge is to save the truly wild species, and to do that we need to save the wild lands. Understand that the modern farming you represent has saved virtually every tree and wild creatures on the planet today.
More good news: The world has set up a new Global Crop Diversity trust that is inventorying gene banks to identify plant material in need of rescue. The Trust is also raising more than $250 million to fill in the gaps in our gene banks, and to ensure high-quality retention and grow-out facilities – even in the Third World.
Still more good news: The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYjust demonstrated that genetic crop diversity can be restoredâ€”or even amplifiedâ€”through modern plant breeding techniques. With “wide crosses,” CIMMYT has just created what it calls “synthetic bread wheats,” by crossing the original wild parents of durum wheat and then crossing their offspring with another wild wheat. This effectively duplicated the natural events that originally gave rise to bread wheat some 10,000 years ago.
The bad news: The eco-activists still want us to turn half of the world’s cr0pland into a gene museum for low-yielding farmers’ seed varieties.
Myth: Organic Farming is Kinder to the Environment
Organic farming is an environmental fraud. The first and foremost rule of organic farming is that ‘thou shalt not use industrial fertilizer.” This means organic farming needs more land to make up for its lower yields (typically 10 to 40 percent lower) and it needs more land for green manure crops or more cattle to produce more manure.
In Denmark, a high-level technical committee reported in 1999 that an all-organic mandate would cut Danish food production by 47 percent. Most of Denmark’s farmland would have to be planted to forage crops and fed to feedlot cattle so their manure could then be spread thickly over the whole Danish landscape.
Dr. Vaclav Smil, an award-winning science author from the University of Manitoba, says all-organic farming for America would take the manure from another 900 million to 1 billion cattle, at 3 to 30 acres of forage per beast. There are only 1.2 billion acres in the whole lower 48 states. We’d have to eliminate half our citizens, or plant all the forests to pasture grass. The world would need the manure from another 7 to 8 billion cattle to replace the 80 million tons of nitrogen we take from the air each year. (The air is 78 percent N.)
Organic farming could be nearly as kind to the environment as high-yield farming – if two thirds of the human population were executed, and the organic rules amended to allow soil-saving conservation tillage (with herbicides).
The Most Vicious Myth: DDT Was Dangerous to People and Birds
Rachel Carson claimed in Silent Spring that “Dr. Dewitt’s now classic experiments [on quail and pheasants] have established the fact that exposure to DDT, even when doing no observable harm to the birds, may seriously affect reproduction. Quail into whose diets DDT was introduced throughout the breeding season survived and even produced normal numbers of fertile eggs. But few of the eggs hatched.”
Ms. Carson was lying. Dr. Dewitt’s study actually showed no significant difference in hatching rates between the quail fed DDT (80 percent) and the control quail (83.9 percent). When Dr. Dewitt tested pheasants, he found that those fed with DDT hatched more than 80 percent of their eggs, while the controls birds hatched only 57 percent. In total, then, the birds fed DDT hatched a larger percentage of their eggs than the control birds!
What about raptor birds, the smaller myth that has persisted longest (being the hardest to disprove)? Researchers for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fed captive eagles heavy doses of DDT for months, and found no impact on the birds or their eggs. Canadian peregrine falcons were found thriving with 30 times as much DDT in their tissues as were supposedly threatening the extinction of U.S. peregrines.
Dozens of studies of birds fed large doses of DDT have failed to thin their eggshells. Some of the studies achieve thin eggshellsâ€”but by reducing the calcium in the birds’ diets. Stress, old age, and mercury pollution have all been shown to produce thin eggshells in the wild, but DDT has not.
Yet the myth of DDT causing declines in bird populations has been allowed to ruin a billion human lives. We are still accepting a million deaths per year from malaria – most of them African childrenâ€”rather than use DDT indoors, as the most effective and cost-effective mosquito killer and repellent ever discovered. Why are we being so inhumane?
Myth: Modern Farming is a Major Contributor to Global Warming
Eco-activists hate the fact that American farmers burn diesel fuel and put nitrogen fertilizer on their crops and they’ve gotten the whole world excited about global warming Everyone knows about CO2 and global warming and the push for the Kyoto Treaty that would sharply raise the cost of both diesel and fertilizer for American farmers and destroy the economies of the first world. But wouldn’t it be worth it? Who wants a fried planet?
Unfortunately, the Kyoto Treaty would bring about a bigger collapse in human standards of living than the Great Depression of the 1930s. Solar and wind power couldn’t possibly provide all the power a modern society needs, nor could nuclear power plants. (We don’t have enough uranium ore.) But would it influence the warming trend?
Researchers around the world are giving us a new reality. This reality is that the Earth’s climate has always been in a state of flux and will continue in its ordained cycles farther into the future than man can fathom. We didn’t cause it, we can’t “fix” it, but we can live with it and modern farming can help.
Global Warming and the 1,500-Year Cycle of the Sun
History tells us of the Little Ice Age, which lasted from 1400 AD to 1850. Before that, there was a Medieval Warming, which lasted from about 950 AD to 1400. The temperatures during the Medieval Warming were about 2 degrees C. warmer than today in Northern Europe, and during the Little Ice Age they were about 2 degrees colder. Before the Medieval Warming, the Romans enjoyed a moderate warming period from 200 BC to 400 AD, and the Roman Empire began to disintegrate when the Dark Ages cold period began (600 to 950 BC).
Now, cave stalagmites and ice cores and seabed sediments and fossilized pollen are allowing us to go back into the temperature record of prehistoryâ€”and we’re finding dramatic findings that the eco-activists don’t want you to know: the Earth is governed by an irregular 1500-year cycle. It’s natural, it’s moderate, and it’s unstoppable. But we can adapt, as humans have been adapting through the centuries. The North American Pollen Database testifies that there’s been a major reorganization of this continent’s vegetation nine times in the past 14,000 years. That’s an average of once every 1650 years. The seabed sediments say these long-term cycles have been occurring for at least a million years.
We first learned of the cycles from a Greenland ice core in 1984. By that time, lots of people were already committed to the idea of man-made global warming. Al Gore had already held his first congressional hearing on the problem. Greenpeace had already announced that mankind must give up fossil fuels (and send in money).
Fortunately, it doesn’t look as though our current warming is due to CO2 from factories and auto exhausts. In the first place, most of it took place before 1940, and thus before the big increase in CO2 emissions. We’ve had very little global warming since 1940.
More important, the Greenhouse Theory says the additional CO2 will collect heat in the lower atmosphere, from the Earth’s surface up to 30,000 feet. Then the heat of the atmosphere will radiate down to heat the Earth’s surface itself. The problem is that for the past 25 years, we’ve been getting the most accurate temperature readings of the atmosphere ever taken, from satellites and high-altitude balloons. They show virtually no warming at all. The Earth’s surface is warming faster than the atmosphere that is supposed to warm it! That can’t be Greenhouse warming.
There’s more. The ice cores in Antarctica clearly show CO2 and global temperature tracking closely together through 250,000 years and three Ice Agesâ€”but the changes in CO2 lag behind the changes in temperature by 200 to 800 years! CO2 is a lagging indicator of temperature change, not the forcing agent for global climate.
The physical evidence of the Earth’s past climate says we’re 150 years into a moderate, cyclical warming being caused by the sun. We used to think the sun was a constant. But now that we can send satellite measuring devices out beyond the obscuring atmosphere of the Earth, we find that it varies by fractions of a percent.
And we have the linkage. We’ve known for 400 years that when the number of sunspots is low, the Earth’s climate will be cold. When the number of sunspots is high, the Earth will be warmer. And the number of sunspots is higher now than it has been in 1200 years.
We also have beryllium. Beryllium is created when cosmic rays hit the Earth’s atmosphere. When the sun is weak, we get hit by lots of cosmic rays, and lots of beryllium is created. (When the sun is active, solar winds protect us from cosmic rays.) In the last 50 years, researchers find there’s less beryllium in our atmosphere than for the past 1150 years.
Will all the wild species die from overheating? Why? The species are mostly at least 600 million years old. They’ve already survived lots of these 1500-year cycles. One “study” that’s gotten lots of publicity says that a warming of 0.8 degrees C will destroy 20 percent of our wildlife species. But over the past 100 years, we’ve already had that much warmingâ€”and we can’t find a single species that’s gone extinct as a result.
Will huge storms destroy our cities? Storms are driven by the temperature differential between the Poles and the Equator. With global warming, that differential is decreased. History and physical proxies both say the warm periods have fewer, milder storms.
Will there be more and worse droughts? Maybe, we don’t know, but there are always droughts. California should perhaps start serious water conservation efforts. We do know there’ll be a bit more rain, because more warmth will evaporate more water from the oceans. In eithercase, conservation tillage and water management will become even more important.
Will malaria sweep over Winnipeg? History says malaria was throughout most of the U.S. and clear up to the Arctic Circle until after World War II. Then window screens and DDT helped us eradicate it. If the temperatures become 2 degrees warmer, we’ll still have window screens and pesticides.
It’s not your pickup trucks, your tractors or your fertilizer. It’s not my Chevy Suburban. It’s the sun, and we’ve got to adapt to a moderate warming, probably at least for the next 500 years. If it’s any comfort, the Medieval Warming was also known to history as the Medieval Climate Optimumâ€”the finest weather humanity can remember. The following Ice Age will be the true challenge.
The Strange Anti-Human World of the Late 20th Century
For the past 40 years, human society has been in a unique anti-human mode. “Saving the planet” has been the watchword. For the first time in human history, kangaroo rats and flowerhead weevils are deemed more important than people.
This orgy of anti-humanity was almost certainly driven by people-hating Paul Ehrlich and his wrong-headed 1968 book, The Population Bomb.
Much of our eco-fervor seems to be due to an irrational fear that our ways of living would be overwhelmed by 20 or 50 billion additional poor brown and yellow people who might grab all the resources away from us.
In Southern Africa, in 2003, environmental activists took their campaign against agricultural biotechnology to famine-stricken countries. They convinced African government leaders not to distribute U.S. corn donated as food aid. America co-mingles corn that is genetically altered with conventional corn. The president of Zambia said the activists told him the U.S. corn was poison. People who were boiling poisonous roots because they had nothing else to eat were denied access to an abundance of their favorite food staple. And remember, this is the same corn that everyone in this room eats as corn flakes, tacos, and chips.
Does putting Nature above people always lead humans to inhumane behavior? Does nature-worship always push society over that thin line?
The same moral codes that say humans are responsible for protecting Nature also say we’re also responsible for helping our fellow men. They don’t say we can become Druids, worshiping trees and practicing human sacrifice.
It would certainly be easier to leave room for wildlife if we eliminated all the humans. But killing off our fellow men or forcing billions of forced abortions are not moral solutions when we have the intelligence and societal skills to save both people and wildlife.
Rich Countries Are Better for the Environment
Paul Ehrlich said the affluent people of the First World were: (1) the worst polluters in the history of the world; (2) would destroy half the world’s wildlife species in the next few decades; and, (3) would bring about the ruin of the whole planet.
The reality, however, is that most of the Third World is already in the most polluting phase of industrializationâ€”burning huge amounts of coal to smelt massive amounts of iron, cooking food with wood from trees that aren’t replanted and caring too little about water pollution.
Meanwhile, in places like Southern Africa and Southeast Asia, the world’s remaining hunter-gatherers are peddling rhinoceros horn and “bushmeat” from endangered gorillasâ€”harvested with AK-47s.
Mexico is losing three million acres of forest per year to the expansion of peasant farming. More than half of the forestland cleared in Honduras in recent decades has been “steepland,” with a slope of more than 30 degrees; at least once a decade, a hurricane washes the steeplands into the valleys.
How can the eco-movement present these hunter-gatherers and peasant farmers as the guardians of the world’s environmental future?
But there is hope for humanity and nature, thanks primarily to the affluence generated by knowledge, technology, and trade. A World Bank staff team has documented a bell-shaped curve in environmental protection. In the early years of industrialization, forests die and pollution surges. Rising populations and higher incomes demand more farmland and better diets.
But when per capita incomes reach a level of $5,000 to $8,000 (Brazil and Malaysia now) a different set of factors take over. People are already well-fed and birth rates fall rapidly. With better inputs and management, crop yields rise, so less land per capita is needed for food. Diesel fuel, taken from under the land or sea, substitutes for firewood and forests are replanted. Affluent people want cleaner air and are willing and able to pay for it. They begin to demand clean rivers, for both health and aesthetics.
Richer Means Fewer Wildlife Extinctions
We tend to forget that man has been using and abusing wildlife for eons. Stone Age man used to hunt birds and animals to extinction. North America lost more than 40 species of huntable birds and animals within a few years after the human hunters arrived from Asia some 14,000 years agoâ€”including North America’s horses, camels, and elephants.
Equally dangerous, we’ve forgotten how vicious people were to other people when food was scarce. Paleontologists tell us that up to 25 percent of the males (and perhaps 15 percent of the females) in primitive communities showed signs of violent death. They were essentially fighting over food: good hunting grounds and good farmland.
Only in the last 100 years has man been able to support high populations of both people and wildlife in the same region. Only after World War II, when the Green Revolution extended high-yield farming over most of the world, did human society free itself from “food wars.” (Just before WWII, crowded Japan invaded Manchuria, in part for its soybean fields; Nazi Germany invaded Poland for “living room.”)
The World Conservation Union today warns that more than one billion poor people are living in the world’s biodiversity hotspots (particularly tropical and mountain rain forests)â€”and trying to feed their children by hunting bushmeat and doing slash-and burn farming. We must give these people higher-yield farming if we hope to prevent massive wildlife extinctions in the next 50 years.
Yet the eco-movement holds up primitive hunters and farmers as the environmental models for the future.
Richer Means a Cleaner Environment
Remarkably, the waste volume from American homes today is one-third less than the waste volume from Mexican homes! This is due in sizeable part to the centralized processing of our food supply. Our broiler chickens, for example, arrive at the store wrapped in sanitary, lightweight plastic-wrapped traysâ€”with the feathers, heads, feet and many of the unwanted internal organs already separated out for recycling at the processing plant.
These poultry waste products are then turned into livestock feeds and many other products, far more effectively than they could be handled without the centralized waste management.
The modern rendering industries are among the world’s most successful and most critically needed recyclers. In America, they treat 50 billion pounds per year of waste that urgently needs to be treated, even if it were only going into a landfill. However, it would take millions of additional acres of farmland to replace the nutrients salvaged and put to use through rendering.
The rest of the First World’s vaunted recycling effort has pretty much collapsed. Most of our carefully sorted urban trash is all dumped together in the local landfill, because it takes more resources to produce useful things with recycled stuff than it takes to start from scratch.
21st Century Human Society is the Most Sustainable in History
Roman citizens worried about soil erosion and declining farm yields nearly two thousand years ago, with good reason: soil erosion has always been the most vulnerable aspect of human society.
Thanks to chemical fertilizer, modern farmers no longer need to “wear out” their soils. Today’s farmers use soil testing and industrially supplied nutrients to keep their soils rich and productive. In addition, modern farmers invented conservation tillage and no-till. These farming systems cut erosion by up to 95 percent and encourages far more earthworms and subsoil bacteria.
Industrial fertilizers and conservation tillage are two of the major reasons why the Soil and Water Conservation Society of North America calls modern high-yield farming “the most sustainable in history.”
The New Surge of Support for High-Yield Technologies
After the success of the Green Revolution became clear in the 1970s, a vice-president of the Rockefeller Foundationâ€”founder of the key agricultural research stations in Mexico and the Philippines-spoke of his profound regret. He said that agricultural research had turned humanity into a cancer on the earth. We now know he was wrong.
Now, with the end of the population surge, high-yield farming is at last beginning to get the support it has so long deserved from the intellectual leadership of the First World.
In May of 2001, our Hudson Institute presented (at the National Press Club in Washington) two Nobel Peace Prize winners, a co-founder of Greenpeace, the then-latest winner of the World Food Prize, and the British author of the Gaia Hypothesis, as signers of our “Declaration in Support of Protecting Nature with High-Yield Farming and Forestry.”
This remarkably broad coalition was led by Dr. Norman Borlaug, Chairman Emeritus of our Center, and the 1970 winner of the Peace Prize for his work on high-yield crops for the Green Revolution.
The Declaration doesn’t endorse any agricultural technology or system. It simply states that the world urgently needs higher yields based on sustainable advances in biology, ecology, chemistry, and technologyâ€”to save room for wildlife.
At the time of the Press Club event, we feared it had been a failure. The biggest media outlet to feature the event was the American Farm Bureau News. But in the months since that event, the concept of high-yield conservation has been praised by columnist David Ignatius of the Washington Post. The October, 2003, issue of the prestigious Atlantic Monthly carried an article lavishly praising both high-yield farming and biotech. More startling by far, the editorial page of the New York Times recommended the Atlantic Monthly article to its readers-in a newspaper which has been editorially praising organic food and condemning high-yield farming for decades.
In October of last year, the journal Science carried an editorial by Dr. Donald Kennedy, the magazine’s editor. Kennedy states that world hunger is now the overarching issue for world health-and concludes:
“Unless agricultural production is increased on the good lands, population pressures will cause farmers to move upslope and deforest the hillsides. That’s a double whammy: a loss for those families, and a loss for the environment. And on already marginal lands, GM technology may offer the best hope for producing crops that can withstand drought, impoverished soils and disease. For both these reasons, we’d better resolve the GM controversy.”
Half Again As Much Meat Demand in 2025
All of that comes in the nick of time because the worlds’ demand for meat and livestock produce will continue to soar. The Third World is raising its meat demand three times as fast as the First World. No vegetarian societies are emerging anywhere. (India has always consumed lots of milk, and now they’re eating chicken and yearning for mutton.)
Meat consumption has an almost perfect correlation with higher incomes. We project that per capita world incomes will be 31 percent higher in 2025 than today. Combined with a 28 percent increase in population, this would drive meat consumption to an increase of nearly 55 percent by 2025.
This meat increase will be good for children, since it provides them with high-quality protein and key micronutrients. Without livestock products, children do not reach their full genetic stature, and may lag in cognitive learning. Moreover, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology says that, since birds and animals can nourish themselves on grass and other things that humans can’t or don’t eat, the resource cost of the meat and milk is just about the same as for the same amount of non-meat proteins and calories.
Such a major meat production increase will require higher grain yields (perhaps 30 percent higher), higher oilseed yields (25 percent higher?) and still-better feed conversion ratios. These will only be possible if we continue to invest in research (including biotechnology) and allow it to be adopted.
The current regulatory war against farmers, renderers, fertilizer makers, and virtually anyone else involved in high-yield farming must stop if we are to sustain the kids, pets, and wild animals in the 21st century.
It looks now as though agricultural biotechnology is winning its place in the 21st century. I’m thankful, since I do not know how we would triple the world’s crop yields again in the next 50 years without it. And unless we triple the crop yields again, we risk losing most of the world’s wildlands.
More Globalization, Not Less
The world also urgently needs farm trade liberalization. Obviously, most of the increase in global meat consumption will occur outside of North America. It is also true that much of the meat consumption gain will occur in densely populated countries that will be critically short of land and water to produce their own livestock products cost-effectively.
Fortunately, the farm trade liberalization talks among the members of the World Trade Organization have taken a dramatic positive turn. Last year, the EU had refused to consider much farm subsidy reform, and the Third World countries walked out of the talks at Cancun, Mexico, and went home. Many of us feared it would take ten years to get farm trade liberalization back on the table. However, thanks to Brazil and India, the talks are back in high gear. The EU has promised to eliminate all of its farm export subsidies as part of a global farm trade reform. President Bush has promised a dramatic reduction of U.S. farm subsidies. (Bush has consistently worked for farm trade reform, and signed the 2002 farm bill only reluctantly.)
The EU is already having trouble paying for the Common Agricultural Policy, and it has just taken in 10 new countries, including big agricultures in Poland and Romania with millions of small farmers and tens of millions of hectares of underperforming farmland.
Meanwhile, China has 20 percent of the world’s population, and 7 percent of its arable land. Three-fourths of India’s Hindus say they will eat meat when they can afford it, and their GNP is now rising twice as fast as their population. Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Egypt are other major population centers which are likely to bid happily for farm imports in the decades ahead.
The world urgently needs both high-yield farming and the liberalization of global farm trade to meet the population and conservation challenges of the 21st century. I think the time is now ripe for North American farmers to present their credentials more forcefully, and more successfully than when the First World was fleeing in terror from “overpopulation.”
You might start by joining the thousands who have signed the High Yield Declaration, at www.highyieldconservation.org