‘Perfect Storm’ Forming For Global Food And Agriculture

Numerous factors are converging to create "the perfect storm" for global food and agriculture, conclude the authors of Council for Agricultural Science and Technology’s (CAST’s) newest paper, "Agricultural Productivity Strategies for the Future: Addressing U.S. and Global Challenges." Prepared as an update of CAST’s first publication written in 1973 by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug (Agricultural Science and the Public, CAST Paper No. 1), the newly released paper is dedicated to Dr. Borlaug and features a preface written by him shortly before his death in September 2009. Dr. Borlaug, credited with saving more lives than any other person who has ever lived through his development of high-yielding grains, was a lifelong promoter and advocate for CAST.

The new CAST paper is a forthright appraisal of the unprecedented challenges facing 21st century agriculture, including:

  • a forecast of future demands due to food needs, climate change, and world population growth;
  • an analysis of the relationship of bioenergy/ bioproducts to agriculture; an overview of the major challenges facing U.S. production, from soil erosion, to water quantity, to bioengineered crops, to animal welfare, to impacts of the Endangered Species Act;
  • an outline of the major challenges facing agricultural productivity in China, India, Brazil, and sub-Saharan Africa;
  • a proposed set of strategies for meeting future food-production needs; and
  • a discussion on the need for and feasibility of implementing a "New Green Revolution."

Dr. Gale Buchanan, former USDA under secretary for research, education, and economics and former CAST president, chairs the task force of notable scientists, researchers, and government leaders who drew from an extensive pool of literature as well as from their own broad experience and insight in preparing the new document.

"We need to end the three-decade-long pattern of living beyond our means; importing more than we export, borrowing more than we lend, spending more than we earn, and consuming more than we produce," Buchanan says. "We are most concerned about the apparent lack of commitment by the United States and other countries to make the research and education expenditures needed to address the problems affecting our survival on this planet. Complacency is unwarranted at this time of unprecedented challenges."

Dr. John Bonner, CAST executive Vice President/CEO, concludes: "CAST is pleased to contribute this excellent, frank assessment of where we are and where we need to be to establish and sustain the health and abundance of world agriculture. We also are honored that the paper includes Dr. Borlaug’s last known published work, in which he summarizes both today’s challenges and CAST’s mission: ‘You have to be able to communicate. Research information must be applied in order to meet human needs.’ "

The full text of Agricultural Productivity Strategies for the Future: Addressing U.S. and Global Challenges may be accessed free of charge on the CAST Web site here.

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