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How do we feed the world as the population soars?

By 26 August 2014 24

Event Schedule
  • 28 August 2014 at 12:00 pm

ABC 666′s Genevieve Jacobs will talk with three eminent experts on one of the great challenges of our time: As the global population explodes, how do we feed ourselves and the world?

The global population is set to hit 10 billion in 2050, that’s one thousand extra mouths to feed each and every day in Australia alone. Mix that with the need to reduce our environmental footprint, and use the same amount of arable land for food production and the challenge can seem almost insurmountable.

So how do we do it? Is Australia playing its part or do we have our head in the sand? Are we using technology to the fullest extent, or are GM fears getting in the way of solutions? Can Australia become the food bowl for Asia, and are there risks attached? With so much instability how do we avoid food price crises, like the one that caused riots and global unrest in 2008?

These and other pressing issues will be addressed at the sixth STA Topical Science Forum. Make sure you don’t miss it.

When: Thursday 28 August 12-1.30pm
Where: Theatre, lower ground floor, National Library of Australia, Parkes Place, Canberra
Register: Click here.

Speaker biographies

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24 Responses to How do we feed the world as the population soars?
#1
dungfungus9:15 am, 26 Aug 14

Seems this “challenge” is a bigger non-problem than climate change.

#2
VYBerlinaV8_is_back9:48 am, 26 Aug 14

Genetically modified grain and insects.

#3
davo1019:52 am, 26 Aug 14

dungfungus said :

Seems this “challenge” is a bigger non-problem than climate change.

Maybe you should go along and tell then about your solution.

#4
Maya12310:18 am, 26 Aug 14

dungfungus said :

Seems this “challenge” is a bigger non-problem than climate change.

How is overpopulation not a problem? You need to look no further than the Middle East to see what population pressures cause, without even starting to mention the other issues.

#5
Postalgeek10:48 am, 26 Aug 14

With 10 billion people there’ll be plenty to eat, people will be encouraged to retire early, there’ll be no waiting in hospitals and plenty of beds, the burgeoning grey demographic will be no more, and our prisons will be empty. We’ll just have to get used to the ‘chicken’ flavour of our food…

#6
switch11:44 am, 26 Aug 14

Postalgeek said :

With 10 billion people there’ll be plenty to eat, people will be encouraged to retire early, there’ll be no waiting in hospitals and plenty of beds, the burgeoning grey demographic will be no more, and our prisons will be empty. We’ll just have to get used to the ‘chicken’ flavour of our food…

“Soylent Green is people!”

#7
dungfungus11:44 am, 26 Aug 14

davo101 said :

dungfungus said :

Seems this “challenge” is a bigger non-problem than climate change.

Maybe you should go along and tell then about your solution.

Some people would find that comment tasteless.

#8
dungfungus11:49 am, 26 Aug 14

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

Seems this “challenge” is a bigger non-problem than climate change.

How is overpopulation not a problem? You need to look no further than the Middle East to see what population pressures cause, without even starting to mention the other issues.

I thought the problem was addressing how to feed people; not to control their breeding.
No one from the Middle East (and Northern Africa) is complaining about overpopulation.
Political correctness won’t let debate go there anyhow.

#9
dungfungus11:50 am, 26 Aug 14

Postalgeek said :

With 10 billion people there’ll be plenty to eat, people will be encouraged to retire early, there’ll be no waiting in hospitals and plenty of beds, the burgeoning grey demographic will be no more, and our prisons will be empty. We’ll just have to get used to the ‘chicken’ flavour of our food…

Soylent Green?

#10
miz1:02 pm, 26 Aug 14

Stopping multinationals controlling seeds would give everyone the power to grow their own. Saving seeds of the most productive, strongest, disease resistant non-hybrid (sterile) varieties (eg heirloom) is the key.
And Join Diggers, who do all of the above.

#11
Maya1231:06 pm, 26 Aug 14

dungfungus said :

Postalgeek said :

With 10 billion people there’ll be plenty to eat, people will be encouraged to retire early, there’ll be no waiting in hospitals and plenty of beds, the burgeoning grey demographic will be no more, and our prisons will be empty. We’ll just have to get used to the ‘chicken’ flavour of our food…

Soylent Green?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_Green

#12
miz1:07 pm, 26 Aug 14

Sorry, to clarify, hybrid = sterile/won’t set seed

#13
Maya1231:38 pm, 26 Aug 14

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

Seems this “challenge” is a bigger non-problem than climate change.

How is overpopulation not a problem? You need to look no further than the Middle East to see what population pressures cause, without even starting to mention the other issues.

I thought the problem was addressing how to feed people; not to control their breeding.
No one from the Middle East (and Northern Africa) is complaining about overpopulation.
Political correctness won’t let debate go there anyhow.

“No one from the Middle East (and Northern Africa) is complaining about overpopulation.”
How do you know this? Anyway, they are too busy surviving the wars and conflicts brought about by over-population. Wars and conflict are a nasty cruel way to deal with overpopulation. We need to tackle this problem before we get to this situation.
“Political correctness won’t let debate go there anyhow.”
Why not? Many people say the world is overpopulated.
On a personal comment, I don’t congratulate people for their third or subsequent children. I smile sweetly when introduced to the baby, and say little. I doubt though they notice my feelings in all their parental glow.
Re Australia. It is difficult for us to control the birth rates in other countries, but we could focus our foreign aid towards female education and birth control education and availability. In Australia the baby bonus should be scrapped; at least for more than two births, or maybe after the first. The biggest expense for parents is the birth of the first child. Many of the things bought for the first child can be used again. We should reduce our immigration rate to sustainable levels. This does not mean a reduced humanitarian rate. Maybe we should reduce the immigration level to even lower levels to allow more refugees in, but still keep levels to a sustainable number. It is no good importing the population problems from other countries. Nothing is solved unless the problems are tackled at the source.
We also need to be told the GNP per person as the population rises, not the GNP of the country as a whole, and allow for inflation in these figures. This will let us understand the real picture more clearly.

#14
bigfeet2:06 pm, 26 Aug 14

VYBerlinaV8_is_back said :

Genetically modified grain and insects.

I, for one, welcome our new giant quinoa and cicada overlords.

#15
bundah2:28 pm, 26 Aug 14

Derr eat less….

#16
dungfungus3:19 pm, 26 Aug 14

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

Seems this “challenge” is a bigger non-problem than climate change.

How is overpopulation not a problem? You need to look no further than the Middle East to see what population pressures cause, without even starting to mention the other issues.

I thought the problem was addressing how to feed people; not to control their breeding.
No one from the Middle East (and Northern Africa) is complaining about overpopulation.
Political correctness won’t let debate go there anyhow.

“No one from the Middle East (and Northern Africa) is complaining about overpopulation.”
How do you know this? Anyway, they are too busy surviving the wars and conflicts brought about by over-population. Wars and conflict are a nasty cruel way to deal with overpopulation. We need to tackle this problem before we get to this situation.
“Political correctness won’t let debate go there anyhow.”
Why not? Many people say the world is overpopulated.
On a personal comment, I don’t congratulate people for their third or subsequent children. I smile sweetly when introduced to the baby, and say little. I doubt though they notice my feelings in all their parental glow.
Re Australia. It is difficult for us to control the birth rates in other countries, but we could focus our foreign aid towards female education and birth control education and availability. In Australia the baby bonus should be scrapped; at least for more than two births, or maybe after the first. The biggest expense for parents is the birth of the first child. Many of the things bought for the first child can be used again. We should reduce our immigration rate to sustainable levels. This does not mean a reduced humanitarian rate. Maybe we should reduce the immigration level to even lower levels to allow more refugees in, but still keep levels to a sustainable number. It is no good importing the population problems from other countries. Nothing is solved unless the problems are tackled at the source.
We also need to be told the GNP per person as the population rises, not the GNP of the country as a whole, and allow for inflation in these figures. This will let us understand the real picture more clearly.

If you shy away from someone who has a third child how are you going to react when you meet people from other countries who follow cultural and religious edicts to have at least 10 children?
And to even think about educating the women from these countries about birth control is, with respect, ludicrous. Do you realize that women in these countries are chattels and don’t have any rights?
It’s about 10 years too late to reduce immigration; we will simply have to suffer the consequences as the UK and Europe have.
Parts of the world are overpopulated and the other places will soon catch up through invasion and migration.
The only course of action for us and the rest of the western world is to breed also or we will become extinct.

#17
farnarkler6:43 pm, 26 Aug 14

The answer is we don’t. Too many countries have populations higher than their arable land can sustain.They need to be controlled, much like the Chinese did with their family planning policy. Take a hypothetical country in sub Saharan africa with a population of 50 million. If their land can produce enough food for 40 million but they have no money………..which seems to happen every year, sooner or later the West will say sorry we have enough trouble feeding our own to give up enough food to feed 10 million. It’ll only take a couple of el ninos to wipe out enough of the World’s crops for that situation to happen. Oh and also, no more research into cures for AIDS or ebola. They’re two of mother nature’s ways of keeping the population under control.

#18
nazasaurus6:47 pm, 26 Aug 14

18/20 highest fertility countries are in Africa, not the middle eastern so not sure where you’re getting your facts from. Nor can I find a war in the middle east due to overpopulation? care to provide something to back this up??

#19
Maya1237:06 pm, 26 Aug 14

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

Seems this “challenge” is a bigger non-problem than climate change.

How is overpopulation not a problem? You need to look no further than the Middle East to see what population pressures cause, without even starting to mention the other issues.

I thought the problem was addressing how to feed people; not to control their breeding.
No one from the Middle East (and Northern Africa) is complaining about overpopulation.
Political correctness won’t let debate go there anyhow.

“No one from the Middle East (and Northern Africa) is complaining about overpopulation.”
How do you know this? Anyway, they are too busy surviving the wars and conflicts brought about by over-population. Wars and conflict are a nasty cruel way to deal with overpopulation. We need to tackle this problem before we get to this situation.
“Political correctness won’t let debate go there anyhow.”
Why not? Many people say the world is overpopulated.
On a personal comment, I don’t congratulate people for their third or subsequent children. I smile sweetly when introduced to the baby, and say little. I doubt though they notice my feelings in all their parental glow.
Re Australia. It is difficult for us to control the birth rates in other countries, but we could focus our foreign aid towards female education and birth control education and availability. In Australia the baby bonus should be scrapped; at least for more than two births, or maybe after the first. The biggest expense for parents is the birth of the first child. Many of the things bought for the first child can be used again. We should reduce our immigration rate to sustainable levels. This does not mean a reduced humanitarian rate. Maybe we should reduce the immigration level to even lower levels to allow more refugees in, but still keep levels to a sustainable number. It is no good importing the population problems from other countries. Nothing is solved unless the problems are tackled at the source.
We also need to be told the GNP per person as the population rises, not the GNP of the country as a whole, and allow for inflation in these figures. This will let us understand the real picture more clearly.

If you shy away from someone who has a third child how are you going to react when you meet people from other countries who follow cultural and religious edicts to have at least 10 children?
And to even think about educating the women from these countries about birth control is, with respect, ludicrous. Do you realize that women in these countries are chattels and don’t have any rights?
It’s about 10 years too late to reduce immigration; we will simply have to suffer the consequences as the UK and Europe have.
Parts of the world are overpopulated and the other places will soon catch up through invasion and migration.
The only course of action for us and the rest of the western world is to breed also or we will become extinct.

I didn’t say I shy away from someone who has three or more children; I just don’t congratulate them, send them cards and the like. I remain polite. I don’t think having a large family is to be celebrated.
Re these religions that encourage large families. I have no respect for them, be they Muslim, Christian, whatever. They are encouraging evil scenarios, such as famine, wars, etc. Our immigration policy should take applicants’ mindsets into account. Whatever the religion, we don’t need fundamentalists.
It is very negative of you to give up like this and think education cannot help. It has been proven to help. Not all the world is made up of religious fundamentalists. Some people are willing to accept knowledge. And an educated society is less likely to allow fundamentalism to rule.

“The only course of action for us and the rest of the western world is to breed also or we will become extinct.”
They have large families, so we have large families, so they have large families, so we have large families, and see who can get to extinction fastest. Could I please also have your definition of what makes up the Western world. Is it race, culture, what is your definition? Who is included, who is excluded?
It’s an old idea that the population needs to be large to defend itself. These days it’s about which country has the best technology. War is much more technological these days with drones, etc. It’s many years since trench warfare and masses of soldiers charging. A single missile would wipe them out quickly.

#20
Maya1237:50 pm, 26 Aug 14

nazasaurus said :

18/20 highest fertility countries are in Africa, not the middle eastern so not sure where you’re getting your facts from. Nor can I find a war in the middle east due to overpopulation? care to provide something to back this up??

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_Middle_East
“The population growth rate in the Middle East is among the highest in the world. The high population growth brings challenges in the Middle East societies. During 1990-2008 the growth rate was higher than e.g. in India or China. In the 17 Middle East countries, as in the table included, population growth during 1990-2008 was 108.7 million persons and 44% growth.”

I would say most if not all wars in the Middle East, at the route cause, can be traced back to population pressures. The, there are too many of them; let’s kill them all attitude, where do you think this comes from? These populations have lived together for hundreds of years, but then the populations were not as high. Now the population is higher, with one of the highest population growth rates in the world.

#21
nazasaurus8:23 pm, 26 Aug 14

Maya123 said :

nazasaurus said :

18/20 highest fertility countries are in Africa, not the middle eastern so not sure where you’re getting your facts from. Nor can I find a war in the middle east due to overpopulation? care to provide something to back this up??

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_Middle_East
“The population growth rate in the Middle East is among the highest in the world. The high population growth brings challenges in the Middle East societies. During 1990-2008 the growth rate was higher than e.g. in India or China. In the 17 Middle East countries, as in the table included, population growth during 1990-2008 was 108.7 million persons and 44% growth.”

I would say most if not all wars in the Middle East, at the route cause, can be traced back to population pressures. The, there are too many of them; let’s kill them all attitude, where do you think this comes from? These populations have lived together for hundreds of years, but then the populations were not as high. Now the population is higher, with one of the highest population growth rates in the world.

” I would say” isn’t evidence, it’s your opinion.

Do you think the growth in those countries may have something to do with increasing modernisation, improvement in maternal health or in the case of the iran-Iraq war the fact that a million people died- could it be similar to the baby boom in Europe in those countries??

Im not a fan of unbridled population growth- in fact ideally we should all have no more than 2 kids but your opinion is purely that. Opinion.

#22
Maya1239:59 am, 27 Aug 14

Even away from main conflict zones, competition for a diminishing resource causes conflict. The more people the more a resource is over-utilised, the more this courses conflict. I found this next link accidentally. The Youtube video is unpleasant to watch.
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/world/fiji-police-investigate-highseas-shooting-video-20140819-105vj3.html

#23
dungfungus5:11 pm, 27 Aug 14

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

Seems this “challenge” is a bigger non-problem than climate change.

How is overpopulation not a problem? You need to look no further than the Middle East to see what population pressures cause, without even starting to mention the other issues.

I thought the problem was addressing how to feed people; not to control their breeding.
No one from the Middle East (and Northern Africa) is complaining about overpopulation.
Political correctness won’t let debate go there anyhow.

“No one from the Middle East (and Northern Africa) is complaining about overpopulation.”
How do you know this? Anyway, they are too busy surviving the wars and conflicts brought about by over-population. Wars and conflict are a nasty cruel way to deal with overpopulation. We need to tackle this problem before we get to this situation.
“Political correctness won’t let debate go there anyhow.”
Why not? Many people say the world is overpopulated.
On a personal comment, I don’t congratulate people for their third or subsequent children. I smile sweetly when introduced to the baby, and say little. I doubt though they notice my feelings in all their parental glow.
Re Australia. It is difficult for us to control the birth rates in other countries, but we could focus our foreign aid towards female education and birth control education and availability. In Australia the baby bonus should be scrapped; at least for more than two births, or maybe after the first. The biggest expense for parents is the birth of the first child. Many of the things bought for the first child can be used again. We should reduce our immigration rate to sustainable levels. This does not mean a reduced humanitarian rate. Maybe we should reduce the immigration level to even lower levels to allow more refugees in, but still keep levels to a sustainable number. It is no good importing the population problems from other countries. Nothing is solved unless the problems are tackled at the source.
We also need to be told the GNP per person as the population rises, not the GNP of the country as a whole, and allow for inflation in these figures. This will let us understand the real picture more clearly.

If you shy away from someone who has a third child how are you going to react when you meet people from other countries who follow cultural and religious edicts to have at least 10 children?
And to even think about educating the women from these countries about birth control is, with respect, ludicrous. Do you realize that women in these countries are chattels and don’t have any rights?
It’s about 10 years too late to reduce immigration; we will simply have to suffer the consequences as the UK and Europe have.
Parts of the world are overpopulated and the other places will soon catch up through invasion and migration.
The only course of action for us and the rest of the western world is to breed also or we will become extinct.

I didn’t say I shy away from someone who has three or more children; I just don’t congratulate them, send them cards and the like. I remain polite. I don’t think having a large family is to be celebrated.
Re these religions that encourage large families. I have no respect for them, be they Muslim, Christian, whatever. They are encouraging evil scenarios, such as famine, wars, etc. Our immigration policy should take applicants’ mindsets into account. Whatever the religion, we don’t need fundamentalists.
It is very negative of you to give up like this and think education cannot help. It has been proven to help. Not all the world is made up of religious fundamentalists. Some people are willing to accept knowledge. And an educated society is less likely to allow fundamentalism to rule.

“The only course of action for us and the rest of the western world is to breed also or we will become extinct.”
They have large families, so we have large families, so they have large families, so we have large families, and see who can get to extinction fastest. Could I please also have your definition of what makes up the Western world. Is it race, culture, what is your definition? Who is included, who is excluded?
It’s an old idea that the population needs to be large to defend itself. These days it’s about which country has the best technology. War is much more technological these days with drones, etc. It’s many years since trench warfare and masses of soldiers charging. A single missile would wipe them out quickly.

You ask who makes up the Western word?
There are many answers on the internet and none are incorrect.
The best and most appropriate answer I found was that any democratic country outside the 57 Muslim states around the world is part of the Western world.

#24
Maya1238:11 pm, 27 Aug 14

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

dungfungus said :

Seems this “challenge” is a bigger non-problem than climate change.

How is overpopulation not a problem? You need to look no further than the Middle East to see what population pressures cause, without even starting to mention the other issues.

I thought the problem was addressing how to feed people; not to control their breeding.
No one from the Middle East (and Northern Africa) is complaining about overpopulation.
Political correctness won’t let debate go there anyhow.

“No one from the Middle East (and Northern Africa) is complaining about overpopulation.”
How do you know this? Anyway, they are too busy surviving the wars and conflicts brought about by over-population. Wars and conflict are a nasty cruel way to deal with overpopulation. We need to tackle this problem before we get to this situation.
“Political correctness won’t let debate go there anyhow.”
Why not? Many people say the world is overpopulated.
On a personal comment, I don’t congratulate people for their third or subsequent children. I smile sweetly when introduced to the baby, and say little. I doubt though they notice my feelings in all their parental glow.
Re Australia. It is difficult for us to control the birth rates in other countries, but we could focus our foreign aid towards female education and birth control education and availability. In Australia the baby bonus should be scrapped; at least for more than two births, or maybe after the first. The biggest expense for parents is the birth of the first child. Many of the things bought for the first child can be used again. We should reduce our immigration rate to sustainable levels. This does not mean a reduced humanitarian rate. Maybe we should reduce the immigration level to even lower levels to allow more refugees in, but still keep levels to a sustainable number. It is no good importing the population problems from other countries. Nothing is solved unless the problems are tackled at the source.
We also need to be told the GNP per person as the population rises, not the GNP of the country as a whole, and allow for inflation in these figures. This will let us understand the real picture more clearly.

If you shy away from someone who has a third child how are you going to react when you meet people from other countries who follow cultural and religious edicts to have at least 10 children?
And to even think about educating the women from these countries about birth control is, with respect, ludicrous. Do you realize that women in these countries are chattels and don’t have any rights?
It’s about 10 years too late to reduce immigration; we will simply have to suffer the consequences as the UK and Europe have.
Parts of the world are overpopulated and the other places will soon catch up through invasion and migration.
The only course of action for us and the rest of the western world is to breed also or we will become extinct.

I didn’t say I shy away from someone who has three or more children; I just don’t congratulate them, send them cards and the like. I remain polite. I don’t think having a large family is to be celebrated.
Re these religions that encourage large families. I have no respect for them, be they Muslim, Christian, whatever. They are encouraging evil scenarios, such as famine, wars, etc. Our immigration policy should take applicants’ mindsets into account. Whatever the religion, we don’t need fundamentalists.
It is very negative of you to give up like this and think education cannot help. It has been proven to help. Not all the world is made up of religious fundamentalists. Some people are willing to accept knowledge. And an educated society is less likely to allow fundamentalism to rule.

“The only course of action for us and the rest of the western world is to breed also or we will become extinct.”
They have large families, so we have large families, so they have large families, so we have large families, and see who can get to extinction fastest. Could I please also have your definition of what makes up the Western world. Is it race, culture, what is your definition? Who is included, who is excluded?
It’s an old idea that the population needs to be large to defend itself. These days it’s about which country has the best technology. War is much more technological these days with drones, etc. It’s many years since trench warfare and masses of soldiers charging. A single missile would wipe them out quickly.

You ask who makes up the Western word?
There are many answers on the internet and none are incorrect.
The best and most appropriate answer I found was that any democratic country outside the 57 Muslim states around the world is part of the Western world.

Reasonable definition.

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