By Don “Doc” Sanders
Let me enlighten you, in case you are unaware of the excellent work of Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Prize-winning American plant scientist of the 60s and 70s.
Borlaug was the scientist who developed high vitamin A rice to prevent hundreds of thousands of children from going blind in third world countries due to vitamin A deficiency. He also developed strains of seed barley that required half the usual amount of water to grow in semi-arid countries. He taught Third World villagers to plant corn in rows to control weeds, rather than tossing the seed haphazardly as if you were feeding the birds.
His list of accomplishments to improve food security goes on and on (https://www.cast-science.org/celebrating-norman-borlaug-man-who-fed/).
In 1972, he and 18 other scientists founded the nonprofit Council for Agriculture, Science and Technology (CAST). Its mission is to disseminate information about new science and technology to Congress and government agencies, the media and the public. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of CAST.
In 1972, this group made bold 50-year projections of the future of American agriculture. Their predictions were prescient. Today, as we near the end of that half-century forecast, the United States is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and consumers, and the world’s largest food exporter. The USDA reports that agriculture, food and related industries contributed $1.109 trillion to US GDP in 2019. US farms contributed $136.1 billion of that.
The food security challenges ahead will require similar or more progress over the next 50 years. That’s why we need to create a new plan to help agricultural scientists, farmers, Congress, and regulators meet the growing food security needs of the world’s rapidly growing population.
The world’s population is expected to grow from 7.5 billion to 9.7 billion by 2050. Some analysts predict that the world’s farmers will need to grow about 70% more food than they do now. Longer-term forecasts predict that the world’s population will not stabilize before reaching 11 billion.
As we strive to produce more food, American agriculture will face additional challenges within the growing constraints of social mores and governmental standards for humane animal care, environmental stewardship, and environmental stewardship. carbon sequestration. This will be complicated by the concerns and misconceptions of the fringe of the mad about genetic modification.
Contrary to their apprehensions, genetic modification has already shown great promise for the future of agriculture by improving food quality, safety and productivity. And agricultural scientists will discover new uses for genetic modification using CRISPR-cas-9 technology to produce food for the world.
But it will take more than scientists to bring this technology to its full potential. The government must overcome the regulatory approval stalemate between the FDA and USDA to authorize the use of genetically modified organisms.
Behind the scenes, inter-agency bickering is at an all-time high. Their disagreements have centered on issues such as salmon being genetically modified in the 1990s to improve disease resistance and the growth of the FDA’s refusal to allow the USDA to regulate CRISP-cas-9.
Genetically enhanced salmon was developed over 35 years ago, but only received FDA approval about a year ago. The FDA has chosen to bury new food technologies under new drug development regulations rather than USDA food safety oversight. Duh! Does all of this make sense?
Newly developed science will become commonplace with tools such as:
- Deletion of genes to prevent major diseases such as PRRS in pigs
- DNA modification to prevent the development of unmarketable rooster chicks
- Neutralization of genomic sex in male pigs
- Genetic modification to allow late-flowering pigs to reach full muscle maturity without being fed B-agonists and anabolic growth promoters before entering the market
Big data will also play a key role in the future of food security, strategically focusing food production, farm management, supply chains, consumer demand and sustainability. Advances in agricultural technology such as robotic tractors and harvesting equipment, drones, satellite scanning analysis and other new solutions will also feature prominently in the future.
And the answers to the future of agriculture will not be tied to land. You got it! Crop growth on other planets will soon be on the horizon, utilizing extraterrestrial vegetation production, planetary groundwater, and ice reserves closer to the sun’s intense energy.
While I pontificate about what the future of food and farming holds, others would have you believe that all of our food will be produced in labs, in giant fermentation vats, using genetically modified organisms that synthesize our food. Some of these events could occur within the next 50 years.
But I think that’s largely unnecessary, thanks to Mother Nature and the amazing ability of ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, deer) to turn grass cellulose into protein – which animals and humans to a single stomach are unable to do. And considering that 45% of the land mass of the United States consists of grasslands and wilderness unsuitable for agricultural production, they have plenty of untapped space to work their magic to help feed the world.
However, environmentalists would have you believe that we cannot use ruminants because they emit methane into the atmosphere. On the contrary, even though methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, Dr. Frank Mitloehner of UC-Davis demonstrated that cows and other ruminants emit methane during a carbon-neutral conversion cycle. 12 years old. That is, they emit no more methane than is permanently captured, used, or stored by grass, plants, and trees.
Anyone who is skeptical of the view that global warming is caused by cows, think about it! Before man’s obsession with global warming, 100 million buffaloes grazed in the US range. Are there any historical indications that global warming was a problem while these animals roamed, before our fossil fuel powered power plants and engines?
It’s only been in recent years that the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez crowd has become obsessed with cow farts causing global warming. And don’t get obsessed with the fact that fossil fuels are the main problem. There’s more to this story for another day.