Perspectives On Feeding The World's Growing Population

Nebraska Notebook

At this spring's conference, Dilip Kulkarni of India's Jain Irrigation Systems, believes time is running out to meet future food needs.

Published on: June 26, 2013

The annual Nebraska Water for Food Conference, held this spring, brought some interesting perspectives from scientists and government leaders from other nations who addressed the more than 400 people in attendance. One positive aspect of the WFI is the partnerships formed with universities and governments throughout the world.

At this spring's conference, Dilip Kulkarni of India's Jain Irrigation Systems, believes time is running out to meet future food needs. But he also says that solutions are within reach. "It is time now for action; we must take our research, our knowledge to the people."

The problems are complex and differ around the world, he said, and government leaders need to be convinced to take research seriously in crafting new laws and policies.

Making this challenge even more difficult, in the view of several speakers, is climate change, which if not addressed will cause even more strain on water resources.

Women in underdeveloped countries do most of the farming, so reaching them specifically with more education and demonstration projects on raising crops and livestock was another point made at the conference.

So, it seems the overall objective is hiking food production and doing so with more efficient use of water.

But a speaker at another Nebraska conference this spring said the world can produce enough food to feed its growing population. It's global food policies and politics that harm distribution, according to Per Pinstrup-Andersen, a Cornell University professor and the 2001 World Food Prize Laureate.

"We've got lots of food in the world," he said. "The problem is inappropriate policies, not food supply."

I'm not sure how many scientists believe that, but he provided a perspective worth hearing.

He estimated that 2.9 quadrillion—that's 12 zeros—pounds of food are lost every year throughout the distribution system. Climate change is one reason for expected food price fluctuations, Pinstrup-Andersen said, but he also blamed use of grain in producing biofuels.

The food production challenge is indeed complex. The differing opinions and perspectives from around the globe make it so. But at least they are meeting to address that challenge, and Nebraska's Water for Food Institute will play a significant role in bringing them together to find solutions.