healthy + productive

Expedition Zukunft - Science Express
Expedition Zukunft - Science Express

Carriage 08

healthy + productive

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Copyright: ArchiMeDes

How will we feed nine billion people?

The emergence of farming and livestock breeding constituted a turning point in the history of humanity – our predecessors became settled as a result of their development. Since then, the global population has been growing steadily and poses an enormous challenge for us today: How will we manage to feed a few billion more people?
Water, soil, climate – these factors are inextricably linked with agriculture. However, climate change is occurring faster than expected and jeopardising our tried-and-trusted systems.

The Green Revolution of the early 1960s made agriculture more productive and proved that it is possible to produce a sufficient food supply that also includes the Third World. However, more efficient production and conventional breeding alone cannot exploit all of the possibilities available for providing people with high-quality nutrition without wresting even more agricultural area from the Earth and imposing an excessive burden on the existing agriculturally-used expanses.

Molecular biology provides agricultural science with new biotechnological tools for securing global nutrition. More nutritious plant varieties and varieties with greater resistance to drought can be created via biotechnology. However, we still do not have all the facts about the interaction between genetically-modified organisms and their environment. Genetic technology is viewed critically, particularly in industrialised nations, and its practical application is moving faster than its ethical-moral integration.

In terms of global nutrition, significant interest will be focused in future not only on “how” but also on “what”. Diet-related illnesses, like obesity and diabetes, are a burden on the health systems in industrialised countries and are spreading like an epidemic in threshold countries. This shows how closely our nutrition is linked to health. In the age of genetics, we are also becoming aware that our own genetic make-up dictates what is healthy for us. In future, it will be possible to prevent or even heal illnesses through individually-tailored nutrition with customised foodstuffs.

Genetically modified plants could help to combat hunger in developing countries. However, they would have to be specifically adapted to local conditions. The development and controlled cultivation of such plants requires the targeted participation of societal institutions. Are we ready for a second Green Revolution?