Sharing on the Global Scale

There are obvious differences in quality of life in terms of food availability, access to fresh water, disease prevalence and medicine across many parts of the world. Until recently, the notion of the Third World had a far greater poignancy than the politically correct term “developing world”. While labelling the poorer nations as somehow separate from the West (the First World) and the old communist bloc (Second World) may have somehow eased the consciences of some, the term developing belies the true nature of life across the globe for billions of people.

For those of us in Europe, the potential for surplus food production (cucumbers and bean sprouts aside), compared with current production and trade volumes as well as our well-off society ‘s desire to use land for non-agricultural purposes, such as biofuel production and sport, leisure and tourism, points to the possibility that there are two paths available to Europe. Such a suggestion to unlock the gate on Europe’s agricultural potential might, at first sight, seem to be mocking the dearth of clear paths ahead for many parts of the world. However, researchers in The Netherlands suggest that Europe can, and must, assume an active role in world food security by using its surplus potential to correct the food deficit in Asia, one of the most troubled regions. It can also use its agricultural prowess to lead agriculture in Latin America towards a sustainable path and to support overall agricultural development in Africa.

Prem Bindraban and Rudy Rabbinge of Wageningen University and Research Centre suggest that the prospects for the coming decades for European agriculture are “so favourable that there is little need to introduce agro-energy or heavy subsidy measures to stimulate or revitalise agricultural development within its territory.”

Bizarrely, and in seeming contrast to pessimistic forecasts and the urges of the vegetarian and meat-free food movements, global food production potential actually surpassed food requirements and would be entirely adequate even at the point that the human population of the planet exceeds ten billion and continues to eat a meat-rich diet.

“For that we should obey basic agro-ecological principles, and continue investments to increase yield of crops as the most important strategy to minimize pressure on natural resources,” Bindraban told Sciencebase. “Agro-ecological principles reveal that the use of fertilizers, agrochemicals and other high-technology innovations are indispensible in this regard. Also, ecological production opportunities such as the enhance use of grassland for the collection of rainwater for production of ruminant meat should be exploited. Rejection of agrochemical input use in agro-ecosystems, in particular fertilizers, lead to deterioration of land productivity, increased releases of greenhouse gases and an accelerated push of poor people in a downward spiral of poverty.” If we are to face up to these problems, what we must not do is shut that gate on the possibilities…

Prem S. Bindraban, & Rudy Rabbinge (2011). European food and agricultural strategy for 21st century Int. J. Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology, 9 (1/2), 80-101

This article has been reproduced from Sciencebase Science News. Copyright David Bradley.

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About David Bradley Science Writer

David Bradley has worked in science communication for more than twenty years. After reading chemistry at university, he worked and travelled in the USA, did a stint in a QA/QC lab and then took on a role as a technical editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry. Then, following an extended trip to Australia, he returned and began contributing as a freelance to the likes of New Scientist and various trade magazines. He has been growing his portfolio and and has constructed the Sciencebase Science News and the Sciencetext technology website. He also runs the SciScoop Science Forum which is open to guest contributors on scientific topics.
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