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Crop crisis: Why global grain demand will outstrip supply

Since the time of Malthus, humanity has worried whether there would be enough food to feed the growing population. Such fears were always overcome and doomsayers all proven wrong: there was always more…

To meet global demand, grain production needs to double by 2050. It’s not going to make it. International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center

Since the time of Malthus, humanity has worried whether there would be enough food to feed the growing population. Such fears were always overcome and doomsayers all proven wrong: there was always more land to grow our crops when existing croplands failed to deliver, and new ways to get more yield from old crops.

Today our planet appears very finite, and the only places to expand agriculture are in our remnant natural grasslands and tropical forests. And the demand for more agricultural crops is relentless, due to not only our rising population, but more importantly, our rising prosperity. The expected 4 billion new members of the middle class who will join the rest of us by 2050 will likely demand more dairy and meat. These require an enormous amount of grains to produce.

Add to these the demands biofuel places on agriculture, and we need to boost global agricultural production by 60% to 110% by 2050. To put this challenge in a time perspective, that kind of increase took our ancestors 10,000 years to achieve.

So how are we doing? My research team recently published an analysis in PLOS ONE of the local to global scale performance of maize, rice, wheat and soybeans. These are the top four global crops, collectively responsible for nearly two-thirds of all agricultural calorie production. We found that current rates of productivity improvements are nowhere near the rates of productivity gains (2.4% per year) required for growing demand. Instead of the required doubling of crop production by 2050, at this rate the yield increase will be only 38% to 67%, with the problem more acute for rice and wheat.

Australia, is the ninth largest global producer of wheat and a major exporter. Its wheat yields have declined at 0.7% per year. In fact, we observed negative yield trends in around 80% of Australia’s wheat cropland areas.

Productivity was rising in only a few of the important wheat cropland areas: the South Eastern statistical division in New South Wales; Darling Downs in Queensland; Goulburn, Western district and Central Highlands in Victoria; south eastern region in Western Australia; and outer Adelaide, Murray Lands, and Eyre in South Australia. Even in these regions the rates of wheat productivity improvements were below the 2.4% rate required to double wheat production, except for south eastern region of New South Wales, where we estimated the rate to be 3.4% per year.

Does this mean Australians won’t be able to feed themselves, much less feed others, with wheat? It seems very unlikely at only 0.7% per yearly declines. This decline however may worsen as Australian agriculture matures. Australian wheat yields are limited by lack of nutrients and of water, with the latter being a bigger factor as we reported in a paper published in Nature last year. In some areas of Australia wheat productivity was already at the maximum possible value.

Looking beyond Australia, we found many countries where the gains in crop productivity are less than those required to keep pace with their population growth. In several countries - such as Guatemala and Kenya - productivity of maize, a significant source of daily dietary energy, is declining and population is growing.

In Indonesia - the third largest rice-producing nation on Earth where rice provides about 49% of daily dietary energy - productivity gain is too low to keep pace with population growth. In India, China, Philippines and Nepal, productivity improvement rates in rice are just about enough to maintain per capita production at current levels.

Although supply will not meet demand by 2050, all is not lost. We can close the demand–supply gap in one of many ways. We can invest more to boost crop productivity in the faltering regions that we identified. We can bring more of our remaining natural lands under production (but wheat alone would require 95 million additional hectares, more than the total area of New South Wales). We can reduce food waste, which already accounts for nearly half of global crop production (unfortunately, waste sometimes is difficult and expensive to reduce, as in developing nations where it occurs between farm and table due to lack of storage and transportation).

Perhaps most controversially, we can change to more plant-based diets. Nobody really knows what members of the new middle class will choose to eat. History shows time and again that as people join the middle class, they look for more dairy and meat. But if they go against previous trends and decide to keep consumption of animal products low - if those of us already in the middle class reduce our meat consumption - we may all have enough to eat after all.

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212 Comments sorted by

  1. Dianna Arthur

    Environmentalist

    Stopping the "development" of arable land, reducing populations, investing in programs for developing countries' independence, all things we can do now.

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  2. John Clark

    Manager

    The doomsayers were right, only their timing was out. A closed system inevitably will fail as demand outstrips supply. The reduction in the rate of population growth will become critical.

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    1. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to John Clark

      Easy and popular to be a doomsayer, but is it correct? Are yields going up dramatically, or declining.

      Facts please!

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    2. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to John Clark

      Agreed, John. Just look at the examples from Pacific Island 'nations' where 'fierce warriors' defended the limited food producing land is a major social attribute and the oceans provide much of the protein. Only now the oceans are being polluted and fished out by industrial trawling to feed distant foreign populations.

      The Pacific solution is migration to other islands, sometimes across vast distances apparently just on speculation.

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  3. John Doyle

    architect

    This important advice is just a part of the puzzles we need to solve to avoid a crash type slowdown in all valued areas of humanity in following decades
    The reduction in productivity per area of land is a major issue. Can, will we reverse this because if not we won't even maintain today's yields?
    Many believe the declines in soil fertility are due to overuse of superphosphate as well as bad agricultural practices causing erosion etc. Cutting down forest in the tropics does not get fertile soils…

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  4. Ross James

    Engineer

    Why do they miss the obvious? The root cause is increasing global population. This can't continue forever. Either we stop it, or mother nature will do it for us, and she can be cruel.

    We need to stop wasting resources, time and money on things like doubtful climate change, and focus on real known issues, such as uncontrolled population growth, particularly in the under-developed nations.

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Ross James

      Nobody has missed the obvious Ross. Everybody understands that population is a problem and there have been huge successes in dealing with it. The total fertility rate has dropped globally from almost 5 in the 1960s to 2.36 today. You might have only recently worked it out, but the rest of us have been doing stuff to counter population growth for 40 years and we also understand that you can't change population fast enough ... you have to tackle the very real issue of climate change. Many areas in underdeveloped countries have done brilliantly to curb population growth, but other areas lag and more work is needed. If this is your pet issue, then I suggest you find a suitable project in one or more of these countries and contribute in any way you can.

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    2. Ross James

      Engineer

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Everybody? Nobody? I don't think so. Our government has been paying a baby bonus, which encourages population growth. You seem to think that everyone except me has been active in this for the past 40 years. I've been screaming about this for decades. If this is a big global issue, why do I rarely hear about it in the media? Why is it that most people I mention it to have never seriously thought about it? Why isn't it an election issue?

      I am already active in an education program in one of the Asian countries.

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    3. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Ross James

      Undeveloped countries are not the problem. It's the profligate western countries that are the problem. The USA is the worst offender by far. Yet they dare to lecture "undeveloped " countries
      about birth control, yet avoid the issue at home.

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    4. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to John Doyle

      Rubbish John Doyle.

      Both are equal parts of the global problem.

      It is no doubt possible for us to have the same western lifestyle without the reprehensible waste that we are responsible for.

      But our 'waste' will not sustain the rapidly expanding developing world into the future!

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    5. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to John Doyle

      "Undeveloped countries are not the problem. It's the profligate western countries that are the problem"

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  5. Heidi Evans

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    How about we worry about reducing the population before anything else? It is the only answer. Desertification from monocropping is a dangerous practice. Not eating meat will not solve the issue.

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    1. Rob Blakers

      Photographer

      In reply to Heidi Evans

      The farming of animals for meat requires 10 times the land, water and energy than does farming for a plant based diet. Reducing our consumption of meat will indeed solve the issue. It is precisely at this personal level we need to change if we are to survive. The good news is that we'll also be healthier for it.

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    2. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Rob Blakers

      Sorry, Rob
      We won't be healthier for not eating meat. That's nonsense.
      In any event how do we convert grasslands into food? Via grazing animals. Sure it's not efficient, something like 4%, but if we didn't eat animal products we would simply be reducing our food supplies. What's that going to solve?
      Would you rather we ate soy and wheat, both of which have health issues?
      Vegetables today are impoverished respect to 50 years ago.
      Adequate nutrition, already in decline in the USA is heading downhill for all who cannot afford real food.

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    3. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Karen Tough

      Good to see that article, Karen.
      It's a more argued case than mine but the conclusions are the same.

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    4. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Rob Blakers

      Possibly Rob, but the concentration of grain trading into now four, previously seven, US grain corporations is another overlooked factor.

      The control of food supply by controlling the international supply chain has obvious political implications. You know, follow our policies or starve.

      Then the abuse of science by allowing patenting of varieties of food plants such as wheat is another control. A larger abuse is the development of herbicide resistant varieties to allow growers to consume herbicides, rather than breeding pest resistant varieties. GM varieties are another problem.

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    5. Rob Blakers

      Photographer

      In reply to John Doyle

      Sorry John, we will be healthier for reducing or eliminating meat from our diet. It's not nonsense.

      The Monboit article looks superficially at various types of large scale food production but this is simply not the direction that we need to be headed.

      Intensive, locally based, small scale, organic, nutrient-dense methodology agriculture grows real food, builds healthy soil, is water, resource and energy efficient, stores soil carbon, provides meaningful employment and cuts out the corporate profit takers.

      It's challenging to actually make personal change at this level but we simply won't survive as a planet if we don't.

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  6. Laurie Willberg

    Journalist

    This article wouldn't have anything to do with the GMO wheat scandal in the U.S. would it?
    Since the time of Malthus humanity has had the knowledge that a population can only expand to the extent that it's food supply can support it.
    It should be the goal of every nation to plan strategies to be self-sufficient and plan accordingly. Global strategies by companies like Monsanto to control the worlds' food supply should be thwarted at every turn, and would be when nations become self-sufficient.
    The concept of a Global Economy has already proven to be of no benefit to the average person living anywhere and only lines the pockets of multinational corporations who are only interested in their bottom line.

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Laurie Willberg

      HI Laurie, the AWB Iraq scandal some years ago has been exploited by US grain traders to 'force' the Australian government to divest the monopoly trading desk for all Australian wheat. Now a US grain trader is attempting to buy the privatised company which will result in Australian wheat farmers becoming the peasants of the SW Pacific, just like other third world economies.

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  7. Martijn Boersma

    Researcher in Corporate Governance at University of Technology, Sydney

    Instead of simply boosting global agricultural production, it is also an issue of wasting less food than we currently do. The National Waste Report 2010 estimates that Australians throw out 4 million tonnes of food each year.

    Research by the NSW Government showed that the average NSW household throws out $1,036 of edible food every year. All together, Australians spend $158 billion on food and throw as much as 20 per cent of that away.

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    1. Michael Lardelli

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Martijn Boersma

      One problem with cutting down on food waste is that it is actually a form of food security. It represents underutilised capacity in the food provision system. A system without waste would have significantly reduced resilience since it would be less able to cope with supply shocks (e.g. droughts, other weather crises and oil supply shortages). It may seem somewhat counterintuitive but highly efficient systems are actually less resilient than those that are a little "sloppy" - and the resilience of the food supply system is critical!

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    2. Martijn Boersma

      Researcher in Corporate Governance at University of Technology, Sydney

      In reply to Michael Lardelli

      I does sound counterintuitive, but I am sympathetic to your argument. I do think however that there is a lot of ground between being a little sloppy, and households throwing away 20% of food annually. The majority of households in Australia do not have to cope with supply shocks, which means that there is little harm in Australian consumers being more food efficient. This could lead to food supplies being distributed more effectively, ultimately lowering demand for additional production.

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    3. Michael Lardelli

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Martijn Boersma

      20% wastage is actually not that great a proportion. It would probably take quite a bit of work to reduce it below that level.

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    4. Martijn Boersma

      Researcher in Corporate Governance at University of Technology, Sydney

      In reply to Michael Lardelli

      Simply stated it means that one in every five loafs of bread or other purchased food is thrown away instead of consumed. That is a big proportion in my opinion, and I am confident that smarter shopping can quite easily reduce that amount.

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    5. Roger Crook

      Retired agribusiness manager & farmer

      In reply to Martijn Boersma

      Considering that agriculture in Australia is hopelessly in debt and the main reason is that farmers have trouble in recovering costs, never mind making a profit.
      Food is too cheap. Charge more, pay the farmers more, wastage will go down and, believe me, production will go up.

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    6. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Roger Crook

      That would do it ... when I was a kid, throwing food away was rare ...

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    7. Roger Crook

      Retired agribusiness manager & farmer

      In reply to Michael Lardelli

      I'll bet anything, there wasn't a 20% wastage of food during WW2, especially in the UK and Europe.

      Make em pay I say. Make a nice trial for a research group. Same food for the week and just double the price. Keep on putting the price up until waste is reduced.

      All the leftovers would go in the fridge to be used later and not in the bin. 'Eat what is on your plate', will again be heard in the dining rooms of the world.

      We should also have a long hard look at this 'Best before' rubbish.

      I bought some rock salt and the label told me it was the purest in the world and had taken thousands of years to form naturally, washed clean of all impurities by rain off the ocean. It had a use by date of Nov 2013! Hello.

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    8. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Roger Crook

      lots of reasons for waste. First, as you mention, food is cheap. In the US the av household food bill is 10% of expenses.
      Second, we oversize portions. The average brioche today is 4x the size of one 30 years ago. The food on the plate fills a large platter size dinner plate. It used to be we ate off 10" plates. Drinks are served in large tumblers or mugs.
      We also snack between meals, and all the food companies promote it. This is all conspicuous and wasteful consumption. We don't need it and it damages our health, so medicare costs a lot more. ETC.

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    9. Mike Stasse

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Martijn Boersma

      The problem lies in calling ANYTHING waste........ there's no such thing as waste. Waste is a resource in the wrong place.

      We grow much of our own food here. We sometimes have surplus (which we share with the goats, chickens and ducks...) and some inevitable waste that goes into compost.

      NO FOOD should ever be thrown out..... then it wouldn't be wasted..!

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    10. Jane Rawson

      Editor, Energy & Environment at The Conversation

      In reply to John Doyle

      Your brioche stat is fascinating: I'm amazed there even were brioches outside France 30 years ago! Got a source? I'd love to read it.

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    11. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Jane Rawson

      Hi Jane, It was a youtube video about portion size.
      I'll see if I can locate it again

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  8. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    Thank you Deepak and UoM team. The wonderful thing about plant based diets is that just one relatively simple action can attack multiple problems: deforestation, various health issues, obesity, climate change, water use.

    The difficulty, particularly in Australia is that the opposition, the meat industry has no integrity and doesn't play by any reasonable intellectual standards in its advertising either at home and more especially in its export markets abroad. Meat and Livestock Australia is happy…

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    1. Karen Tough

      equine learning facilitator with a passion for natural farming & nutrition.

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      you think cropping has less problems ? - GM, copious amounts of herbicides & pesticides , the decline in the Bee population , poisoning of the river systems & bays from run off ? Disruption & destruction of the soil eco system? Do you think mother nature got it wrong when she populated the planet with herbivores to fertilise & manage the land & carnivores to control their population.?

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    2. Liam O'Dea

      Principal at Livestock

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      "the meat industry has no integrity"'?
      Meet as bad as tobacco?
      What are you on Geoff?
      I think you've missed the point. And Marion Nestle was talking about marketing absurdities and a crazy farm bill in the USA. That is world away from selling grass fed meat from Australia to protein starved people in third world countries.

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    3. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Karen Tough

      If you think cropping is a problem, then you should be totally opposed to most of the meat produced in Australia, because the majority is pig and chicken with substantial amounts of grain also going to both beef and dairy cattle.

      Mother nature isn't infallible and the list of her errors is almost as long as that of God. Happily we are omnivores so we can choose ... eat high on the food chain to maximise our destructive impacts or eat lower to minimise them. It should be an easy enough choice.

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    4. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Liam O'Dea

      Marion Nestle was talking about the meat industry subverting nutritional advice using every dirty trick in the book.

      The example I gave from MLA came from Anna Kriens Quarterly Essay 45. MLA has a history of going to great lengths to mislead and deceive. Four Corners "Bloody Business" showed the lengths they went to to mislead people about the state of slaughter practices in Indonesia. They lie. They produce a product that is known to cause bowel cancer and are happy to mislead people about this. Note the relationship now acknowledged by World Cancer Research Fund (equivalent of IPCC) is "cause" not "is associated with" ... obviously not the only cause, but a big cause.

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    5. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Liam O'Dea

      P.S. Liam, third world countries are short of food, not protein and we don't help by using valuable food and feeding it to animals.

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    6. Liam O'Dea

      Principal at Livestock

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Geoff,
      Most of Australia cannot be cropped, sustainably. It grows grass and shrubs and trees., veggies that people cannot digest.
      But ruminants can convert this "rubbish" to food for humans.
      80-90% of beef produced by converting grass.

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    7. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Liam O'Dea

      Yay and we all used to eat each other whenever we got the chance. Nor did Ma Nature populate Australia with cattle, sheep, pigs and goats – homo-saps did and therein lies the problem which is yet another tragedy of the commons - human evolution going backwards.

      "Protein starved?" The most populated countries on the planet did not manage to breed their billions from the consumption of meat. In fact the real gluttons are Luxembourg, US, Australia and NZ.

      And NZ's Sam Neill with a monkey? Cringe. MLA’s pin-up boy, the portly Sam Kekovich is not a good look for flesh eating mammals down under.

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    8. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      (White) homo-saps certainly did introduce cattle, sheep, pigs and goats to Australia some 200+ years ago. Before that the indigenous inhabitants lived quite comfortably for millennia in a vegan utopia of native zucchini, broccoli and mung beans.

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    9. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Yes. Up until 1788 at least. Then cattle, sheep, pigs and goats arrived and human evolution in Australia went backwards.

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    10. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      I would disagree, and so would many others I suspect.

      Aborigines would have include meat in their diet.

      It would have been readily available and given much needed sustenance.

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    11. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      You are correct. I've looked it up. Aborigines did in fact eat meat. Also the vegetables I listed are not native to Australia. I was of course commenting on Shirley Birney's original post. Her comment "The most populated countries on the planet did not manage to breed their billions from the consumption of meat" is also interesting and may be ever so slightly off the mark -
      http://earlywarn.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/trends-in-animal-product-consumption.html
      Goodness, it looks like China and India are increasing and America is decreasing. No mention however of the flesh eating gluttons in Luxembourg. Pork futures look pretty good in China also - 53 million tons in 2012, six times as much in total and 46% more per capita than the US of A. Buy into pork shares now and save for retirement.
      http://www.treehugger.com/sustainable-agriculture/chinas-growing-hunger-meat-shown-move-buy-smithfield-worlds-leading-pork-producer.html

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    12. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      That’s some blooper Grant. In 1981, China’s population exceeded the billion mark. http://www.chinability.com/Population.htm

      The population would have been slightly higher had the one child policy not been implemented in 1979.

      In 1982, each Chinese person consumed just 13 kilograms of meat per year, the equivalent of one tenth of a pig. Beef was so rare it was nicknamed “millionaire’s meat.”

      The highest rate of meat consumption I can find from any demographer for India is currently…

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    13. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Well it certainly looks like the increase in Chinese meat consumption since 1981 has lifted them to the status of a superpower driving Australia and the world's economy. Perhaps the correlation coefficient between their meat consumption and GDP per capita is high and positive. And from climate science we all know that correlation implies causation. When it suits of course.
      You mention athletes and the protein poor. Here's a turbo-charged one fuelled by fish, chicken, pork and beef.
      http://getmascular.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/usain-bolt-workout-and-diet-secret.html
      How much more awesome would he be on lentils and tofu?

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    14. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Grant Burfield

      Grant, your 'getmascular' blog failed to mention a number of elite athletes who avoid meat consumption. Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Carl Lewis come to mind. As an omnivore (though predominantly fruitarian), may I suggest a little less bias in reporting?

      However, there is no question that China’s burgeoning consumption of meat is increasing. Pork is China’s meat of choice, accounting for nearly three fourths of its meat consumption.

      The statistics above are hardly relevant to Australia’s…

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    15. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      Here's an idea I bet you didn't think of. Why not click on my name and then the Profile tab. But don't take that too seriously, I made it up as can anyone else here regarding their profile.
      I actually received my qualifications in a Weetbix packet along with a plastic toy.

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    16. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Liam O'Dea

      The other 'rubbish' (statistically 'waste') which livestock are extremely good at utilizing, and humans can't, are the byproducts from the food processing industries.
      Within 50 kms of our farm there are mills turning out rolled oats, bean and pea flour and cleaned pasture seed. Most of the waste from these places-oat husks, bean kibble, lucerene & clover seed screenings etc along with meal from oilseed crushers makes excellent stock food.

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  9. Ian Gostelow

    Phd Candidate, LH Martin Institute at University of Melbourne

    Global Population predictions of 9.6 billion by 2050 (7.2 billion now), raise the question of what is a sustainable population level - even if we have an answer to such a wicked problem, there are few mechanisms to impose it. The one child solution of China is fine where you have a centrally controlled compliant citizenry, but most of the developing world doesn't follow this model. The stage is set for pestilence, war, famine and death. Whatever gains can be found for crop production, the resources remain finite: pictures from the Mars Rover are compelling. But Human ingenuity should never be discounted.

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to Ian Gostelow

      HI Ian ... and the human experience at Easter Island is equally compelling.

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    2. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Ian Gostelow

      neither should human's stupidity (and oft times, the higher the academic altitude, the thinner the air necessary for common sense .. )

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    3. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Ian Gostelow

      At some point we may well have little other choice but to consider involuntary fertility control via some sort of biological vector - the lesser of an even worst evil (pestilence, war, famine and death).

      Such a means of fertility control is the fairest because it could not be contained within one country or region and it could not be specifically directed at any particular ethnicity.

      I could envisage that Paul Ehrlich's chemical in the water supply could suffer this problem. i.e. of being used…

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  10. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    I'd like to think in part this is why we elect governments........

    to look to the future and the problems and issues that lie in wait for the world.

    These though are problems of our own making, and if the world is to continue it's merry way, we need solutions - some obviously not all that palatable.

    We need to stop the West and the wanna be Westies from just consuming and recklessly pushing materialism to the limit.

    The need to own a new Aston Martin convertible at $500+_, or a new watch at $22K etc etc..........

    If we don't start the downgrading of "capitalism", it will be done for us.

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to John Phillip

      Well John I have to disagree.....they were of course just random examples because in toady's Age there was a review on the Aston Martin, and I recently saw ads for watches in the $10 - $30K range.

      As far as I'm concerned, I bought a watch 2 weeks ago from K Mart - $3. I am not a jealous person in terms of wanting what I can't afford or want.

      Jealousy is probably one cause of rampant materialism - I want what she/he's having.

      Materialism/Capitalism is an issue - look at the developing nations who aspire to the glitz and glam products of the West.
      How much consumption is enough?

      How much energy, money, resources are going into products that add nothing to the world in terms of real productivity and usefulness. Can we afford to keep promulgating the rich and famous lifestyle and not ultimately pay a price.

      Materialism engenders an selfish and insular attitude that panders to ego and immaturity.

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    2. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to John Phillip

      Sure....essentially what I'm saying is that as we consume more of everything from expensive cars to wagyu beef, we become unused to moderation and concentrate on excess.

      We become nations who want more and more of more.

      The "simple" life becomes a memory of the old life when times were tough.

      The quality of our lives becomes more about what we own, what we want..........

      It's about more of everything that is reducing the world to a polluted, environmental shambles, as the waste and dross of the modern world threatens to engulf us in desolation - intellectually, spiritually and physically.

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    3. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen, not being aggro, but that's your opinion (and I may well share it), rather than establishing a link.

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    4. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Take your point, Stephen but does a Rolex consume more than a Casio. Is the environmental footprint of an Aston Martin much different to that of a Mazda? What are the long term envirnomental costs of a product that lasts longer and therefore doesnt need as frequent replacement as opposed to a cheaper produce with a shorter service life. Those were my concerns with your argument. Cheers

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    5. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      .....if you want a link, look around you.

      The links are everywhere - if you want statistics and figures, look 'em up yourself.

      But from where I view the world, I can see the waste, materialism, greed and useless consumerism sinking the world and all of us with it....that's enough of a link for me.

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    6. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to John Phillip

      Not so much as the cost, but the ideology behind it.

      I'm sure the diamonds and platinum on a Patek Phillipe watch don't help it tell the time.

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    7. Andy Saunders

      Consultant

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      OK, you've got an opinion (no shortage of them around!)

      But there is a shortage of facts here...

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    8. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Andy Saunders

      Well go out and find them.........

      I'm not a "links" man.

      You say you agree with me, so YOU must KNOW the facts - being a links man.

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  11. John Newlands

    tree changer

    I'm puzzled by predictions that Australia will have its 4th largest wheat harvest this year. That will require good rainfall from westerly airstreams and as of mid June that hasn't really happened yet. Even if rainfall for grain growing was reliable both diesel and (concentrated) phosphate will get steadily more expensive due to depletion.

    Rather than broadacres we could grow crops in furrows irrigated with recycled effluent. The machinery needed would be low horsepower and the land could be on the outskirts of cities c.f. Havana, Cuba. Instead of meat, dairy, bread and pasta we might eat more beans, lentils and potatoes. Our population has exploded thinking there would be more for everybody including a rich diet. Perhaps not.

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    1. Jack Arnold

      Polymath

      In reply to John Newlands

      Hi John ... these furrow irrigation establishing machines already exist and are used in the wine industry.

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  12. Christine Millier

    I am retired from welfare work

    Australia needs to stop using coastal farmlands for development as it has been doing so for many years. The amount of rich farmland that now have become residential, golf courses, tourist resorts etc is astounding.

    It is due time to stop giving so much money to foreign aid and accepting so many immigrants. Educating people in the "underdeveloped" countries on land management for farming is wiser than keeping on giving them money.

    Money could be better spent in Australia, getting water to the inland desert areas for farming and building of communities that would be required to follow. To do so would be more beneficial to global humanity. There is no need to be building large homes with acreage blocks of land just because wealthier people want it. Lawns are grown and mowed down where there once was productive farmland is such a waste.

    Also the planet just needs to be taken better care of.

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Christine Millier

      Couldn't agree more..........we are living beyond our environmental means. If we keep borrowing the debts will never be repaid (environmentally speaking).

      Why do we need lawns anyway - way too much water wasted.

      We have enough golf courses............let's start turning THEM into farms and reverse the trend.

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    2. David Kemp

      Professor of Agricultural Systems at Charles Sturt University

      In reply to Christine Millier

      It is amazing how so few people have been aware of the difficulties ahead. Not only is any 'new' land less productive, but rising energy costs will severely limit what farmers can do, not to mention the increasing problems of a more variable climate. Population growth is the elephant, but it will be difficult to do anything about that in most countries - educating girls is one of the better paths. Productivity gains do though depend upon research and development, yet that has declined, PhD's in agriculture can't get relevant jobs and politicians and some farmers have become complacent about the wind back of Government services. Others will need to get over their urban views - not always based on fact and acknowledge that the world does need a vibrant productive agriculture if we are to survive in the ways most people want.

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    3. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to Christine Millier

      Years ago, it had seemed to me Sydney was making a mistake in expanding onto the good agricultural soils over towards the Nepean river. Sydney would have been much better off to have expanded over the hawkesbury sandstone country which is much poorer ground [but not without value]. And go up as well.
      Parisians grow half their vegetables locally. New Yorkers get 25% of their fresh produce locally.
      Australia doesn't have enough good soils to waste on roads and houses.

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    4. John Doyle

      architect

      In reply to John Doyle

      Of course when the population crashes, we can demolish the houses and reclaim the soils.

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  13. Rory Cunningham

    Test Analyst

    What about GM crops? Could they help solve the issue?

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    1. David Tribe

      Senior Lecturer in Food Biotechnology and Microbiology, Agriculture and Food Systems at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Rory Cunningham

      They indeed can be a useful part of the solution (but only a part of a many pronged attack). A main difficulty is systematic efforts to slow down and stop use of this crucial tool -- such as the criminal sabotage by Greenpeace of CSIRO wheat research -- by short sighted organisations who are are grossly intolerant of different ideas to the one's they favour.

      Excessive, unjustfied regulation and political interference is part of the problem.

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    2. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      These eco-crimes are carried out by the secret 'they'; the ones who called Edward Snowden (the ultimate sacrifice) who alerted us to the USA’s insidious PRISM; then there’s the UK’s Tempora surveillance, so what is Australia’s pawn-like politicians and senior bureaucrats got lined up for us here in Australia?

      ‘They’ say we have nothing to fear; ‘they’ will look after us as we are one of ‘their own’ (as in ownership?) … but they are not ‘our own’, are 'they', ‘they’ are part of an elite (who…

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    3. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to David Tribe

      Oh dear and Grist writes that "some experimental GMO crops were torn out of a field in Oregon this month. That means it’s time for the federal government to freak the f*** out and do its best to clamp down again on eco-activism.

      "The sugar beet plants, which were genetically engineered by Syngenta to survive applications of the herbicide Roundup, were uprooted in the middle of the night from a couple of fields, presumably by anti-GMO activists.

      "The destruction of the experimental crops occurred…

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  14. Ross Chester-Master

    Past It

    The big breeding nations need to take responsibility for themselves .... and ignore the anti-contraception message of various religions. I prefer grass fed meat ...and 'roo. The advanced world takes too much responsibility for the over-populated masses and needs to solve its own fossil fool addiction problem.

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  15. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    Population and fertility control, particularly in the developing world, is not optional.

    If we, the west, don't take this bull by the horns and face it head on then we will be responsible for unprecedented human suffering through negligence and we ourselves will under real risk of being politically destabilized by hordes of refugees seeking a better life in our territories.

    Something that is clearly not tenable for hundreds of millions to billions of refugees and that is already happening in Europe!

    Allowing our countries to be reduced to the same level of misery and political instability in the near future is NOT a sensible solution to this human misery in the developing world now.

    We have a moral obligation to do better regardless of how politically difficult it is!

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  16. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    And we need to give up on this ridiculous fantasy that we can bring down developing world fertility and population through development.

    If it is not clear to you by now that this planet cannot sustain 7 billion plus westerners then god help our civilization.

    Emergency fertility control and population reduction is required before all humans on this planet can be lifted out of poverty.

    This may well have some rather uncomfortable implications for us in the west but TOUGH.

    We have collectively made our global bed, by failing to act sooner when Norman Borlaug warned us, and now we have to lie in it!

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    1. Mike Stuart

      jaffle-maker

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Greg, the statistics show that fertility rates in India, for example, are declining. This could be due to a variety of factors but many of the well recognised/accepted contributors include rising affluence and education, particularly female education. This relationship also holds fairly true in developed nations. While I agree we can't spend our way out of a crisis/problem development is not always a bad thing.

      Development in its various forms can include greater investment in physical infrastructure…

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    2. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Mike Stuart

      "fertility rates declining / could be due to rising affluence and (female) education" ... what a fertile imagination; you must make some interesting jaffles ...

      and to address food shortages, "the things they pine for (no, not food) more roads, rail and communications" ... and ... "we need to be smarter .... reduce our impact but continue to populate ...no reason 'they' can't be educated about global carrying capacity" ... you dolt.

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    3. Mike Stuart

      jaffle-maker

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      It is not imagination you rude jerk. Women who find themselves empowered by education in developing countries move beyond the traditional role of house-bound baby producers. They become economically contributing members of society as their rights become more and more recognised and thus producing offspring becomes less of a priority. there are multiple studies that have found this relationship (one such is here):
      http://econdse.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/JD-Fertility-Education-and-Development-Further-Evidence-from-India.pdf

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    4. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Mike Stuart

      Owww Mike, you called me a name ...
      How old are you Mike ... this 'opinion' you have, is it yours, or actually something you've learned or read somewhere?

      "medicine delivered to those most in need" crap ... and what of the long (length in numbers and waiting time) lists of Australians for medical attention? ("effective tax structures" FFS) ...

      Look Mike, the primary objective should be the environmental issues, understanding carrying capacity of a region; where infanticide is still practised ... do you go for a long drive between service stations with half a tank, with a almost bald tyre, or - in a dry region - with insufficient water in case the car breaks down?

      Try lateral thinking ... you might come up with some more fill combinations for your jaffles as well ...

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    5. Mike Stuart

      jaffle-maker

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      It certainly is an area I study, I just don't feel the need to place my academic achievements or profession under my login name. This is supposed to be a place for reasonable discussion. Your inflammatory tone would suggest your commentary may find a better audience on the daily telegraph / smh / youtube blogs. If you want to bicker I don't have the time/will to do so.

      Shall we return to the topic? I have massive concerns for the environment issues in and out of the developing world. But I see…

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    6. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Mike Stuart

      paradoxically, I find your enunciation mixed and offensive to common sense ...

      The topic is food out-stripped by demand. Yes I am staunchly environmentally biased; without balance, little will survive ... you implied better education equated to better health; I questioned the validity given Australia's education and 'economic' standing ...

      So happy to talk about each individually, but responded accordingly to what I perceived as a scatter-gun approach ... have a good weekend ...

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    7. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Mike Stuart

      "Greg, the statistics show that fertility rates in India, for example, are declining. "

      That may be the case Mike Stuart, but clearly this is simply not enough given that many of the experts are becoming alarmed that we will be unable to feed the global population in the coming decades.

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    8. Mike Stuart

      jaffle-maker

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      ok cool. we're back on track. I don't think that's a fair assessment of my comments. I am certainly not suggesting education is the magic bullet but rather pointing out it's merit as a means to alleviating demand on food supply through reducing population growth. That is all. The reference to medical improvements was related to access via improved infrastructure. This is again related to population growth. Improved access to healthcare (incl pre/post natal) can reduce infant mortality and limit the…

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    9. Mike Stuart

      jaffle-maker

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Agreed. It is still a huge concern. Was simply a remark that I have had to labour over with old mate Daniel Boon above.

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    10. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Mike Stuart

      "I said female education in developing countries is one means to reducing pressures on food demand via reduced fertility. "

      The problem with this Mike is that you are effectively talking about increasing living standards.

      And with the huge number of people lifted out of poverty in China and India we already have critical problems with CO2 emission, fossil fuel depletion and global warming.

      I put it to you Mike that is is simply not possible to lift the majority of humans on Earth out of poverty and educate the majority of girls sufficiently without crashing the global ecosystem, largely destroying western civilisation and causing the human population to crash catastrophically.

      I put it to you that sooner or later the west will be forced to do do far more than all of this in an attempt at self preservation.

      And I further put it to you that the longer we delay in acting decisively the more morally challenging will be the choices that remain available to us!

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    11. Mike Stuart

      jaffle-maker

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      "simply not possible." You've heard of the Green Revolution right? Would that have been perceived prior to the 1940s? I still don't understand what your solution is? Just allow the impoverished to starve to death and thus correct our global food shortages with war and famine? Malthus has been proven wrong time and while his argument at the time was relevant as the industrial revolution had not yet arrived in full swing, society has of course seen a multitude of technological developments emerge that…

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    12. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Mike Stuart

      I swear Mike, people like you must be bloody THICK!

      I know all about the Green Revolution Mike and about Norman Borlaug.

      Did YOU know that, in his speech upon acceptance of the of his Nobel Prize, he warned the world that he had bought them perhaps a few decades to "tame the population dragon"!

      But as THICK people like you seem to dominate world leadership, his warning was ignored and the global population promptly tripled from 2 billion or so to the current 7 billion due to the increased…

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    13. Steve Wylie

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Stuart

      Quite right Mike. Daniel is parroting something he read on the internet

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    14. Mike Stuart

      jaffle-maker

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      No, I'm not thick actually. I just delve a little deeper into the issue than the news articles offer. Course when I find it all too hard I usually resort to insulting those who present alternative arguments around me.

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    15. Mike Stuart

      jaffle-maker

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      So, aside from your excitable ranting (I really like how you keep mentioning my name), what I can deduce from your argument is the answer is entirely up to reducing consumption? Again, I don't disagree. The article above discusses this at length and it has been covered extensively in this string and many others. I still don't know what your answer is to managing the growing population? I really hope you aren't sitting on your verandah with a stick between your teeth waiting for sky to fall in. If you are, at least grab a few episodes of Game of Thrones before the sh*t hits the fan. It's awesome

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    16. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Mike Stuart

      Mike people like you are broken records who keep playing the same old tune over and over and over again.

      We have already tried a green revolution Mike and it has resoundingly failed to eliminate global hunger or to facilitate the community of nations to 'tame the population' dragon.

      What the hell makes you believe that yet another green revolution, even if it was ecologically feasible, to make any difference to our predicament a second time around.

      If one method fails to achieve the desired result then logic and common sense would dictate that we try a different method.

      Not the same one AGAIN!

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    17. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Mike Stuart

      "reducing consumption"
      That is only part of the solution Mike. The biggest part of the solution will be reducing our fertility and our numbers!

      And challenging our hubris in believing that every one of us has the god given right to 'breed' to our heart's content, and to not accept any restrictions on this! Both the west and the developing world included in this!

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    18. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Mike Stuart

      " I really hope you aren't sitting on your verandah with a stick between your teeth waiting for sky to fall in."

      At least myself and people like me are prepared to face our probable future reality and be some what prepared for it.

      In contrast to people like you who prefer to blinker themselves with delusional optimism.

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    19. Mike Stuart

      jaffle-maker

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      You and people like you make wonderful dinner guests I'm sure.

      I certainly hope you are doing your part. Do you have children?

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    20. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Mike Stuart

      "You and people like you make wonderful dinner guests I'm sure."
      I certainly wouldn't make a nice dinner guest for you Mike Stuart, because I wouldn't be prepared to toe your political line!

      "I certainly hope you are doing your part. Do you have children?"
      Oh here we go.....like I haven't heard this one before!

      I have two children Mike and I am not suggesting that people in developing world or anyone in the west should be prevented from having children if they wish.

      I am merely suggesting that they should be encouraged and facilitated to stop at two children preferably, or compelled to if necessary. The west and the developing world equally.

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    21. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Steve Wylie

      And where did you get your 'knowledge' ooh wise one Steve ...

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  17. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    "but the rest of us have been doing stuff to counter population growth for 40 years and we also understand that you can't change population fast enough"

    Well we better damn well find a way Geoff because mother nature is more than capable of achieving a dramatic and rapid reduction in our global population.

    But none of us would regard this as a desirable outcome.

    If necessary then we should be prepared to consider, as a last resort, non-selective biological means of fertility control.

    Even involuntary and random global fertility reduction is more desirable than what mother nature will have in store for us if we fail to adequately reduce our numbers in time.

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  18. Michael Lardelli

    logged in via Facebook

    The author did not mention the probable decline in agricultural production due to declining oil production. Just yesterday Nature published a commentary by Chris Nelder describing how the "peak oil pessimists" have been the closest to the truth in predicting oil production while the spruikers of growth like Yergin, the IEA and the EIA have made repeatedly incorrect predictions. If you have access to Nature you can read it here:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v498/n7454/full/498293a.html

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  19. Paul Prociv

    ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

    A fairly depressing account, but entirely predictable. Sadly, Malthus was always right - it's just that he failed to predict the revolutions in technology that boosted food output as the world's human population kept growing. Many now still have faith that human resourcefulness, technology, will keep on pushing the line back, but if we examine it in detail, each technological leap depended on more energy input, i.e. the burning of fossil fuels. And we've run out of land and water, while fertilizers…

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  20. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    "Can we afford to keep promulgating the rich and famous lifestyle and not ultimately pay a price. Materialism engenders an selfish and insular attitude that panders to ego and immaturity. "

    This is another fantasy that some of us are laboring under.

    This is human nature and you just AINT going to change it.

    The developing world is not interested in just getting enough to eat and having an adequate roof over their heads.

    They all want a western life style as well so good luck convincing them to give up on that aspiration.

    Anything we do about global population must be based on the assumption that everyone on this planet will or seek to live a western life style.

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Hi Greg

      OK so it's human nature, sooner or later it will be changed for us - one way or another.

      Hedonistic civilsations historically always come undone.

      I did say that non-West countries will seek to emulate the "must-have" ethic of the West.......that will be the tipping point as far as I can see.

      But who can deny them in one sense?

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  21. Mark Lawson

    senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

    Unlike some articles about food production I've seen, the authors obviously do know this area, and its a most useful article. However, like most of the articles in this area it is unduly pessimistic. The problem with forecasting a supposed food crunch, there are so many other factors aside from simply increases in productivity.

    1) If the governments of the US and Brazil can be persuaded to drop this insane obsession with biofuels, a lot of farm land would be freed up for ag production.

    2…

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    1. Michael Lardelli

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      The point is that, in planning for future supply, it is the lowest limits of production (i.e. production levels during droughts / under conditions of oil shortage) that are critical determinants. Yes, droughts end but they also certainly come again and if you have exceeded your capacity to support your population during a drought, then you are in a very insecure position, especially in an overpopulated world where food surpluses no longer exist and nations restrict exports in order to secure food supply to their own populations.

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    2. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Michael Lardelli

      Michael - I think you're becoming confused about global versus local production. I only mentioned the drought in SE Aus here because the author made comments about local productivity. It has no relevance to global production, particularly with trade networks as dense as they are.

      Oil shortage? Oil may well become more expensive in the ongoing switch from conventional to unconventional/non-OPEC oil and, sure, its an extra cost of production that will add to food prices. However, as the article points out, one of reasons for the higher expected demand is that sections of Asia will become richer and thus able to afford more.

      As I noted previously, there is a lot more to it than simple productivity extrapolations.

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    3. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      I think (actually know) it is you who is confused Mark; it has everything to do with global as well as local production and you can have a million trade networks, but with nothing to trade, where does it leave them?

      Switch from conventional to unconventional? You're a senior journalist?
      Higher demand driven by affluence, but not population growth?
      You've not heard of Peak Oil or aware that when the cost reaches a certain price, a recession soon follows due to affordability?

      I thought the FinReview was a somewhat credible publication ...

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    4. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      Daniel
      Oh wow, someone who is still talking about peak oil! How entertaining. Perhaps you can hold conventions with those academics who contend that socialism wasn't really given a chance. The bit about demand being driven by affluence is in the article, and is in fact a well recognised trend.The population growth is certainly there, just a secondary factor..

      As for the bit about oil prices and recessions I'm not sure what that has to do with anything previously said..

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    5. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      it appears you have a distinct lack of understanding of how stuff gets grown and moved from place to place ... and our (Australia's) vulnerable position ... you do understand that if fuel costs more, then food will cost more? And that if regions are unable to grow, if (the grain), is available and affordable it will cost more transport ... you familiar with Ethiopia?

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    6. Mark Lawson

      senior journalist at Australian Financial Review

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      Daniel - your posts are becoming less connected with reality and logic as we progress, and I see you've responded in similarly confronting terms with others on this thread - many others. Time to put you on my list of those I don't respond to.

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    7. Michael Lardelli

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      Mark, before you dismiss peak oil you should read the commentary published yesterday in the leading science journal Nature that states, quite clearly, that the peak oil "pessimists" have actually been the most accurate in predicting oil production while the optimists such as Yergin and organisations such as the IEA and EIA have a much poorer record. The Nature commentary by Chris Nelder is quite interesting since it examine reasons why our community is so dismissive of peak oil concerns. If you can…

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    8. Michael Lardelli

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Lawson

      I was referring to Australia's agricultural production. For more detail see my comment also below this article that begins, "The author did not mention the probable decline..."

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  22. Edward Cannella

    Zoologist

    I am glad the issue of food waste has been brought up. This is a critical component of the debate. I don't have figures but I would love to know what the short term costs in reducing waste vs the longer term costs of not doing anything would mean in terms of food security and supply.

    Two example of food waste in this country that I find abhorrent are: a figure bandied about is that in Australia, about 30% of fresh foods purchased weekly is thrown out by consumers. That is pretty pathetic. I also remember reading that approximately 100K tonne of bananas are left to rot every year because they are not the right size or shape for the supermarket. How shallow and inept have we become?

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Edward Cannella

      How shallow and wasteful we have become indeed.

      It also displays a remarkable arrogance in these sorts of actions.

      This type of hubris should be unacceptable.

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  23. Liam O'Dea

    Principal at Livestock

    Very good article Deepak.
    Of course there are too many of us.
    The solution? 1. educate women 2, educate women 3. educate women.
    Then give women pills, condoms, IUDs, health care -- free. It's not a question of can we afford it, - it's can we afford to not do it.?
    Raising living standards always suppresses population growth. It can be done - 5% of global defense budgets would do - but the political will is lacking.
    On the supply there is every reason to be optimistic. About a third of…

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    1. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Liam O'Dea

      Liam ... your ignorance appears to know no bounds ... women are the cause!
      What a dumb thing to say.

      I have copied and amended your last offering " in the history of our planet, many species have thrived until they have exhausted the resources necessary to their survival, resulting in the inevitable dramatic collapse"

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    2. Steve Wylie

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Liam O'Dea

      Quite right Liam O'Dea. The solution is education of women from developing countries. By saying that you are not "blaming" women as Daniel misunderstands.

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    3. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Steve Wylie

      No Steve, it is you who doesn't understand ... lets keep it local (easier for you to understand), Peter Costello (then federal treasurer, a man, at the behest of corporations dependent on consumers) said one child for Dad, one for Mum and one for Australia ...

      The baby bonus was $2,500 in 2002, it went $5000 for the first child and $3000 for each subsequent baby ... resultant outcome, a baby boom ... the reality is there is a proportion of younger women out there who come from a lower socio-economic group in a high volume consumer driven advertising campaigns that stimulate the psychological need to prove they are 'in' ...

      I'd bet money that both you and Liam would have brand name stuff in your wardrobes ... you may not be able to ascertain the nuances of what you say, but most others do ...

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    4. Liam O'Dea

      Principal at Livestock

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      So Daniel perhaps you were not being facetious .
      How much did you bet on brand names in my wordrobe. You lose. How much do i win? Oh, sorry there's a pair of RMs that I got at a village market.
      It's not Costello's bimbo supporters that are the problem. It's the women whose ignorance, or culture, or family deprive them of choice.

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    5. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Liam O'Dea

      @ Liam: "The solution? 1. educate women 2, educate women 3. educate women."

      Man has God in his heart and the devil in his pants. ‘Somewhere on this globe, every ten seconds, there is a woman giving birth to a child. She must be found and stopped.’ ~ Sam Levenson (humorist).

      The solution? 1. educate men 2, educate men 3. educate men.

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    6. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Steve Wylie

      The solution is education of *men* from developing countries.

      HIV Aids is out. Rape is out. Condoms are in. If it's not on, it's not on.

      Condoms are cheap to day. Roll up, roll up - two bob a dozen.

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    7. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Steve Wylie

      "By saying that you are not "blaming" women as Daniel misunderstands."

      Yes he is. He said to give condoms to women. Huh?

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    8. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      More like castrate men via a biological vector of some sort!

      There are a lot of men in the middle east and africa who can't or wont be educated.

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    9. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Liam O'Dea

      I don't think so. The amount of unpaid child support owed by 254,000 deadbeat dads in this "first world" country has cracked $1 billion and the Government is employing private investigators to get it back. In contrast there are 25,000 mums defaulting in payments to the custodial dad.

      So how many hit and run dads would you estimate are in the developing countries of which you speak? How many mothers and starving children have been abandoned? Yeah right - educate the women you say while men run amok with impunity.

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    10. Mike Stasse

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      You can just see it can't you..... Here, before you rape me, stick this on...!

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    11. Liam O'Dea

      Principal at Livestock

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley ,perhaps I did not make myself clear.
      I am NOT blaming the women. Yes men run amok, and treat women as their property, BECAUSE the women do not know that they have rights. They have been suppressed for so long that they have no awareness that there is another way.
      Education brings power.
      Education will teach them that the prophet never said that they must submit to rape. Or Whatever.
      The men with power don't want their women to know these things.
      I'm not sure how dead beat dads fit into all this.

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    12. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Liam O'Dea

      @ Liam: “Education brings power. Education will teach them that the prophet never said that they must submit to rape. Or Whatever.”

      1. Saudi Arabia: Court doubled its sentence of lashings for a rape victim who had spoken out in public about her case and her efforts to seek justice. Six months in prison and 200 lashes

      2. Brisbane girl Alicia Gali sentenced to a year in jail for being gang-raped in the United Arab Emirates

      3. A 17 year old mentally disabled girl from Soweto was gang…

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    13. Liam O'Dea

      Principal at Livestock

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley, i think we are talking about feeding a growing global population - and limiting that population growth.
      Can you not agree that birth rates decline when woman are better educated?
      I'm aware of horrific violence by men against women, in all countries, and the need to deal with that. It is not what this about. It's another subject. Perhaps you could submit a paper on that?
      You've made a useful contribution to this conversation, and I agree with many of your comments. The peasant way (La via Campasina ) is the way forward, if we don't destroy the planet first.

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    14. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Liam O'Dea

      Liam, can you not agree that populations increase with rape and sexual coercion? Are you endeavouring to legitimise rape and the rapists' sexual transgressions? Do you actually believe that family planning clinics are available to all peasant women in developing countries?

      Why do you not agree with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists study on the US dilemma - one of the most educated nation on the planet? Sexual violence has little to do with the educational status of…

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  24. John Kelmar

    Small Business Consultant

    Australians need to ensure that we look after ourselves first, and then offer what is left over to overseas nations at an appropriate price.

    It's time that each country took responsibility for their own people and stop the dumping of unwanted persons on other countries.

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  25. Steve Wylie

    logged in via Facebook

    "We can bring more of our remaining natural lands under production".
    I sincerely hope not. We are in the middle of the sixth great extinction event, an event induced by man's wholesale destruction of "natural lands". It is estimated that between 17,000 and 100,000 species each year become extinct http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2012/03/28/the-sixth-great-extinction-a-silent-extermination/

    Reducing waste, as suggested, should help. So will raising awareness of these issues through better education, especially of women. This should also reduce human fecundity, which is the root cause of all these problems.

    You failed to mention genetic enhancement of crop species for better tolerance to the biotic and abiotic challenges facing agricultural production. Genetically modified plants will one day tolerate lower soil fertility, grow better under an unpredictable climate, and repel pests and diseases.

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    1. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Steve Wylie

      Steve, you started off OK "we are in the middle of ..." then lost credibility with the "better education of women" and then a big F (fail) with GM ... do some research .. please.

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    2. Steve Wylie

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      Daniel, I am 100% certain that I have a far deeper understanding of the GM issue than you have. You are parroting misogynistic and Luddite propaganda that you read on a dodgy internet site. On the other hand, my real research background qualifies me to comment from the scientific literature.

      Who needs to "do some research .. (sic) please"?

      And contemplate this as your homework for today. "It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt”. ― Mark Twain

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  26. Fred Moore

    Builder

    It is greatly troubling that a small minority of Australians, typically failed politicians or those in Corporations or Media, have a vested interest in boosting immigration beyond the carrying capacity of the desert island we inhabit.

    These people are ruthless, viscious and generally in highly vocal positions in the community. That they wish to downgrade their fellow citizens lifestyles to the standard of human cesspools like Sydney and Melbourne, in the name of humanitarianism, is in itself a crime against humanity. That they ignore this nation's carrying capacity and the damage that continued voracious immigration & marketeering is doing to the nation's biological capital is unforgivable.

    I understand the schadenfreud delights they aspire to. For in hurting the many in the name of an impossible sea of humanity they elevate themselves to the status of Gods.

    Surely there is a place for these people in Hell.

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    1. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Fred Moore

      Well said Fred ... but its not necessarily in the name of humanitarianism; many are duped into believing it is ... but really, its corporate government's voracious appetite for more consumers ... their profits underpinned (not unlike Ford Australia) by spreading the burden to the people ...

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  27. Michael Croft

    logged in via LinkedIn

    What a lot of twaddle! There is no shortage of grain and nor will there be!

    According to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, the world produced enough food to feed 12 Billion people. If you don't believe that, how is that the world population is approximately 7.2 million and yet we waste (post production losses) some 40% of all food produced? Doesn't that add up to enough food for roughly 10 Billion? And that includes using food for biofuels and inefficiently…

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    1. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      Daniel, localised shortages due to drought and distribution problems are indeed a crisis, but not one of total global production. The mistake almost all academics make is to assume that localised production and distribution shortages means a global production problem. This is not the case.

      Today France sold 200,000 tonnes of wheat to China for delivery in August September. Why? Because France is expecting a bumper crop and their price is less than Australian wheat of similar quality. If there was a global shortage of wheat, prices for wheat would be at record highs and our farmers would be thriving - they are not. Grains producers remain price takers and, since this is a market economy, that means there is a glut of wheat/grain.

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    2. Roger Crook

      Retired agribusiness manager & farmer

      In reply to Michael Croft

      The 'real' value of wheat has been falling since well before the Great Depression, everybody knows that. The population of the world has doubled in the last forty years or so. Scientists, farmers and their advisers, yes and agribusiness companies including agri chemical companies have fed those people to excess. The average person in the USA eats twice as many calories as they need, the same can probably be said of most of the developed world, I only say probably because I don't have the reference…

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    3. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Roger Crook

      Agreed Roger,

      Re the excess of food in the developed world; the 2 .3 billion (and climbing fast) obese answers that question.

      The average age of farmers is a problem, and at 54 in Australia I am on the young side of the equation. Best guestimates are 58 in Australia, 65 in Japan, and 44 (which is old) in the developing world. So the aging farmer issue is a global one. Farmers global north and south have been telling their children for generations to 'get out' and move to the city.

      Some…

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    4. Roger Crook

      Retired agribusiness manager & farmer

      In reply to Michael Croft

      Its even worse in the USA, hard to define farmers over there, but USDA has it at over 62. In our eastern wheatbelt (WA) 64 among the specialist grain growers. The big worry is asking how many have a successor? That's when the numbers get very concerning.
      Canada too has a similar problem, but they are enjoying a purple spell at present, mixture of better prices and provincial and federal agencies supporting farmers, they also value add in a big way, especially with canola, then feed the canola meal…

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    5. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Roger Crook

      I'm with you Roger, there is no strategic plan for agriculture in Australia. Our first ever National Food Plan is BAU, productivity increases and free market fundamentalism - more FTA's and reducing structural barriers to trade. Our policy gurus can't join the dots between free market fundamentalism and our agricultural, processing and manufacturing problems - go figure.

      I have spoken to parliamentary secretaries for agriculture and wannabe ministers for agriculture (my farm is in NSW and only…

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    6. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Roger Crook

      Lot of good points there Roger. I am farming at 62 and still lovin' it, but as my old man said when he turned 70, 'son, it's all down hill from here.' Well thats only 7 years away now.
      Luckily I have an heir and successor, but one of the things that keeps him looking at greener pastures is the avalanche of pressure that is being put on farmers by various keyboard activists, most of whom have no idea about farming. Some of them vehemently demand we don't use animals, next bunch, 'musn't use chemicals…

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    7. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Michael Croft

      Forgot to say what we need in Australia is something akin the the Canadian NFU (National Farmers Union). Now there's a farmers organisation the 'gets it'.

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    8. Mike Stasse

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Croft

      Obesity is almost entirely due to sugars. processed food is full of it.

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  28. William Hughes-Games

    Garden weed puller

    It seems reasonably likely that climate zones, which at present are creeping north, will lurch northward when the Arctic ocean is ice free at, say, the first of August. Rising air over the Arctic ocean rather than the present, prevailing falling air will suck climate zones northward. It won't be demand exceeding supply but rather supply falling well below demand. I doubt if we can get back up to present levels of food production in less than a decade and if the climate flickers between the old and the new climate, farmers will never know what to plant and when. Malthus, by the way, was completely correct.
    http://mtkass.blogspot.co.nz/2009/02/malthus-pyramid-schemes-starvation.html

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  29. Will Hunt

    Farmer

    I personally don’t care what people eat, I just hope they get enough. From a farmers perspective, let me make a couple of points. To put you in the picture I raise dryland (not irrigated) sheep & crops in Australia and don’t feed sheep on grain. There is a lot more involved here than most people realise.
    Firstly is the question of soil health. Soil carbon and biological activity increases under pasture and decreases up under a grain crop. At best a grain legume will only barely maintain the status…

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Will Hunt

      Straight from the farm........great stuff.

      Thanks - lots of sense.

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    2. Mike Stasse

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Will Hunt

      Great stuff! it's so heartening to see a farmer who understands his farm's an ECO-SYSTEM and not a medium for growing money. Ooops, I mean food...

      All you vegans/vegetarians who love your organics, make no mistake, growing them without animals is IMPOSSIBLE. You should all read up on Permaculture, the ONLY farming way in a fossil fuel constrained future.

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    3. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike, whenever someone says there is only one way, I am reminded of Maggie Thatcher and TINA (there is no alternative). Of course there are alternatives to Permaculture, but none that would deliver such environmentally and socially just outcomes. Don't take offence, I do agree with you in a nuanced kind-of-way.

      Interestingly there is convergence between Permaculture and Agroecology. My reading is that Agroecology is essentially Permaculture on a larger/commercial scale - and I have a PDC btw. What this means though is that considerable effort has been made in academic circles to quantify and validate agroecology as a viable and better alternative to industrial chemical agriculture - see Miguel Altieri et al.

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    4. Jane Rawson

      Editor, Energy & Environment at The Conversation

      In reply to Will Hunt

      Really nice comment, Will: thanks.

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  30. John Clark

    Manager

    The short answer is - due to the excesses of consumption and rampant population growth. All else simply postphones the inevitable.

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    1. Chris van Woerkom

      Insurance Manager

      In reply to John Clark

      Interesting reading gents, and obvious issues that need to be addressed are population control, wastage,yield rates, oversupply in some country's whilst others go without, the control of supply chains on international scale, manipulation of plant genes for solely commercial gain, degradation of soils forests waterways and fish stocks, health of populations etc etc etc. The list could go on and on.
      How then or what do we tackle first to prepare for the future?

      By keeping things localized. Country…

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    2. Roger Crook

      Retired agribusiness manager & farmer

      In reply to John Clark

      John,
      It's Friday. The man came with the truck today and took away most of the rubbish.
      Some cannot be put on a truck.

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    3. Roger Crook

      Retired agribusiness manager & farmer

      In reply to Chris van Woerkom

      Easy peasy.
      We grew food 400 km from Perth. The duopoly wouldn't buy off us locally. So we sent our produce 400 km to Perth. A proportion of which came back to our town/area, pop 35,000 plus at over 100% markup on what we received after paying transport costs.
      People I know growing fresh food have not received an increase in prices in over ten years.
      Think of how much you pay for strawberries and how much you paid years ago.
      Huh?

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    4. Chris van Woerkom

      Insurance Manager

      In reply to Roger Crook

      Ah I understand, however there was no suggestion that this was an easy road, just one that made a lot of sense for humanity.

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  31. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    With all this hashing on about elimination of food wastage in the west being the solution to global poverty, why doesn't some one do a rough calculation.

    Obtain an estimate of the average number of calories currently consumed by Australians, subtract the number of calories required by the average human to remain healthy, multiply by Australia's population and see exactly how many the excess could sustain in the developing world.

    My guess is that it will be a surprisingly small number of people in the face of the sheer magnitude of the problem.

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  32. Bart Brighenti

    Farmer

    Invest in farmers and you invest in food production.
    The most important link in the food chain is the farmer, but he gets the least to no reward for this.
    This is why food production is decreasing, no return so no effort is put in,
    No use opening up new farm land when there is nothing profitable to grow and our existing farm land is being abandoned.
    Free trade and deregulation has only led to market failure for farmers.
    Efficiency is not rewarded, instead less efficient hobby farms, who rely…

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    1. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Bart Brighenti

      A lot of what you say is right Bart, but it's not all gloom and doom. We are doing ok, but there is no real incentive to stick your neck out and try and double food production, which is what 'they' say we ought to do.
      Rather, we are cutting back the inputs and trying to trick nature into doing what we want it to do. Never pay $$ for something you can con nature into doing for you.
      Unfortunately perhaps, that is all rather 'old school', grazing stock on sub clover pasture, almost going back to a fallow situation to control weeds and conserve water, albeit with a mix of cheap herbicides and grazing in the equation.
      So we get by.

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    2. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Will Hunt

      "We are doing OK". Sorry Will, but I disagree because "doing OK" = farmers in Australia having double the national suicide rate. I think farmers deserve a bit better than that - what do you reckon?

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    3. Mike Stasse

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Bart Brighenti

      "Food production can expand and be sustainable."

      Really Bart........? Do YOU know something we don't? The only reason food production ever increased to the current levels is 100% due to fossil fuels.

      Gas is used as molecular feedstock to create fertilisers, diesel is used to plough and harvest crops, coal fired electricity is needed to irrigate, then more diesel is used to truck food to supermarkets where even more coal fired electricity is used to keep it frozen or refrigerated or airconditioned…

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    4. Bart Brighenti

      Farmer

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Hi Mike
      There is huge scope to recycle nutrients from all types of waste as well as make full usage of our current production systems based on mono culture to a system which would fully utilise all available farm assets. In horticulture we spray out all grasses as they are a weed, the same grasses that sheep farmers use to fatten sheep and have dams that can support fish farming.
      trouble is this all takes more of our hugely expensive labour, wont deliver maximum yield from each crop individually…

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    5. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Croft

      Gee sorry Mike didn't realize that. (Runs outside, puts head in noose Gaaaaaaaaak) .
      Happy now?
      Look, I think that that is a very dangerous generalization. Australia is a big country. Some of us have good soils, good markets and assured rainfall. Some industry sectors- like processible food and dairy- are doing it tough. Some areas which rely almost exclusively on export markets like WA and NT are doing it extremely hard.
      The damage done to these people by the live export bans has been incredible, AND YET if you go to these areas, some people will be doing it tough and some will be doing OK.

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    6. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Will Hunt

      You are right Will, however the exceptions (those doing OK) don't disprove the statistics. Ask the average veggie producer, or fruit producer, or cannery, or beef producer, or wool producer, or fishing trawler owner, even yourself; are you better off financially in real terms today than you were 10, 20, 30 or 40 years ago from your farming activity? No the new quad bike and foxtel don't count.

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    7. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Croft

      Hey Mike,I'd have a fortune if I didn't keep buying land.

      Old farmer joke, 2 guys win the big lottery, $5mill each, Harry says to Bert "What are you gonna' do with yours?"
      "Oh, buy a holiday house on the river, a new Merc and a boat and invest the rest- what about you ?"
      "Oh... Just keep farming 'til it's all gone".

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  33. Andrew Stiles

    Teacher

    All of these issues stemming from overpopulation are meeting head on, making it more difficult to engage best practices even as the importance of doing so becomes more imperative. Even taking the growing process alone, we have to deal with increased demand, less water, depleted soils, higher costs of harvesting and transport, more unstable and less predictable weather patterns. On top of a growing population we have to take into account a growing middle class who will consume much more.

    Overpopulation…

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  34. Shirley Birney

    logged in via email @tpg.com.au

    Think globally, act locally. You guys have overlooked the elephant in the room. More than two hundred million peasant farmers have an antipathy to Australia’s agricultural imports:

    “The US and the Cairns Group (a bloc led by Australia and other developed countries, which never reflects the interest of developing countries)....."

    http://www.viacampesina.org/en/index.php/main-issues-mainmenu-27/food-sovereignty-and-trade-mainmenu-38/396-peoples-food-sovereignty-wto-out-of-agriculture

    “The…

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    1. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Shirley, I was at the 6th International Conference of La Via Campesina last week in Jakarta, and you are absolutely correct, the big bad three, as far as peasant farming is concerned, are Australia, Canada and the USA.

      The free-trade bi/multi/regional agreements that Australia supports benefit transnational agribusiness corporations, and any benefit to farmers in the exporting countries is of secondary consideration. The importing countries lose their farmers and resilience as result, with devastating social and environmental consequences. Free trade, without regard to the social environmental and economic consequence for both parties, is unjust and our government should be called to account.

      Please get in touch via Linkedin, I'd be interested to know what else you have information on regarding Australia's agricultural trade relations in the region.

      Cheers, Michael

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    2. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      So what do we do Shirley?
      On one hand theres an African farmer with the few tonnes of grain that hes worked his backside off all year for, trying to sell at a decent price, when POW!, along comes a semitrailer full of Krispy Kleen Korn, a gift from the good ol' USA or UN or wherever.
      His years work reduced to nothing in the blink of the proverbial.
      Not much of an inducement to do itagain next year?
      So what do we do?
      Sit back and watch them die while they get their production in order?

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    3. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Will Hunt

      Yes it is a 'wicked' problem Will, no easy answer to that one, but if we all applied food sovereignty principles to this global problem it would disappear. The Africans can and will feed themselves if we stop our paternalistic 'helping' and we engage as equals. Problem is developed world peoples, including the well meaning NGOs, mostly want to teach Africans how to suck eggs.

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    4. Roger Crook

      Retired agribusiness manager & farmer

      In reply to Michael Croft

      It's not as easy as either of you elude to. Maybe some first hand knowledge will help. There is no doubt Africa, if we can bundle it all up, does have the capacity to feed itself.
      Problem is and the experiences are well documented, even when many African 'farmers' are shown how they can quadruple yields, just by using good agronomy, they are painfully slow to adopt new techniques.
      Food aid agencies are well aware that food aid can inhibit agronomic progress, and they do work with agriculturalists to encourage change.
      It is derogatory the remark about NGOs and sucking eggs. It's also wrong and you should apologise to the NGO's, many of whom have devoted their life to improving Africa.
      A big problem in Africa is corruption. On the news today the pres of South Africa has spent $30m on his retirement home, while not a mile away from his new home 'his' people have no electricity and running water.

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    5. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Croft

      "The Africans can and will feed themselves if we stop our paternalistic "

      Optimism is great Michael Croft, but it is highly counter productive if your optimism has morphed into a political ideology that blinds you to the reality of our global food situation, that leads to make false assumptions that in turn leads you strategies that just will not work in the long term.

      One such likely false assumption of yours is that Africa can adequately feed itself into the future with its population expected…

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    6. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Roger Crook

      No Roger it is not easy and no one said it was. The good intent of the NGOs is (usually) without question, however their lack of success is self evident, and I am only repeating what the peasant African farmer delegation were telling me last week in Jakarta. I don't think any of them are about to apologise for their first hand experiences of NGOs in Africa. What is said in the glossy pr campaigns and what actually happens on the ground are rarely the same. Yes there are some notable exceptions - Action Aid is one of them, but there are hundreds of NGOs operating in Africa that are paternalistic "we know what's best for you". Agronomic advances/advice in Africa works best P2P and not NGO top down, and the peasant farmers have quadrupled yields and are disseminating their knowledge.

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    7. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Greg, there are well documented critiques of the CSIRO et al. "productionist" arguments - See Prof Tim Lang, City University London. See also Olivier De Schuter - the UN Special Raporteur on the Right to Food. In essence productionism is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result - one of the clinical definitions of insanity.

      The current and dominant capitalist paradigm is political, therefore any alternative point of view is also deemed political. I do not apologise for…

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    8. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Croft

      "But ask yourself this, do you really believe that the capitalist system that created the problems, will also solve them? If you do, then perhaps it isn't me who is the optimistic political ideologue?"

      What ON EARTH has given you the impression that I believe capitalism will solve our problems?????

      What I think will be a large part of solving our problems long term will be ACTIVELY reducing global fertility and population rather than pursuing unsustainable development and ASSUMING that fertility…

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    9. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Yep, definitely not capitalist, but still paternalistic. Global fertility rates are dropping, and dropping in the developing world much faster than demographers predicted/anticipated - that's the good news. The bad news is the lag in total numbers, primarily due to increased life expectancy.

      What the world is not thinking about is post population peak. The growth paradigm is predicated on increasing demand mainly from population and affluence increases. Population decreases aren't factored into the growth paradigm as 40 years is too far into the future.

      You are right though, a BAU scenario will be disastrous for ecosystems on a planetary scale. That's why I am promoting alternate visions, and ones that evidence so far says will work before during and after peak demand from a 3BL perspective.

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    10. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Croft

      "Yep, definitely not capitalist, but still paternalistic."
      Well given that the developing world's excess population is now spilling into western countries as refugees and asylum seekers, we have every right to be a little paternalistic about their over population!

      "Global fertility rates are dropping, and dropping in the developing world much faster than demographers predicted/anticipated - that's the good news. The bad news is the lag in total numbers, primarily due to increased life expectancy."

      Desirable as this may be it is clearly not enough because many of the experts seem to be alarmed at the real prospect that we will not be able to adequately feed the still rapidly growing populations in the developing world and that there will be major political instability as a result!

      We are going to have to come up with a more dramatic decline in fertility and population.

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    11. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Michael Croft

      Michael, thanks for the response. I am not sufficiently au fait with global food politics to form an accurate opinion. Nonetheless, the limited knowledge I do possess has flamed a growing realisation that Australia’s pledge to “feed the world” is not spawned from a sense of altruism.

      The Association of Concerned African Scholars writes that: “Food sovereignty allows farmers and communities to choose their seeds and their food production systems. Collaborating with the food movement in the…

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    12. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Thank Shirley, much appreciated. And genuinely appreciated because it appears I may be (after a convoluted and necessary election process) the regions Civil Society Mechanism delegate http://www.csm4cfs.org/ to Rome, and I need links and information that counters the neoliberal assumptions made by our government. .

      Which side of the fence? Perhaps this will help clarify where I stand https://theconversation.com/the-draft-national-food-plan-putting-corporate-hunger-first-8342 and the subsequent response to Australia's National Food Plan http://www.australianfoodsovereigntyalliance.org/peoples-food-plan/revised-plan/
      Cheers, Michael

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    13. Will Hunt

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Croft

      As a farmer Mike, I am a grower of commodities. I have no say in where my product goes. In much the same way as Twiggy Forrests Iron ore can end up in hand grenades or surgeons scalpels, my barley may end up as Chinese Beer, Australian bacon or feeding the starving millions. I just grow the stuff. I just really feel sorry for my fellow African farmer getting f**ked over by the system, but it is governments that is doing that, not Australian farmers.

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    14. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Will Hunt

      Agreed Will, I am a farmer too, and farmers have to work in the existing system, but that does (or should not) not stop us from acting to change the system for the better. I am happy to blame the 'govmint' for our fellow farmer's plight, but I ain't happy to roll over and let it continue.

      To NOT act to change the system, is exactly what corporate agriculture and business wants of us - too busy and compliant little worker ants feeding their massive corporate profits - and they have got it with the help of successive governments committed to 'economically rational outcomes'.

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    15. Shirley Birney

      logged in via email @tpg.com.au

      In reply to Michael Croft

      Michael, thank you for the interesting links. I was absolutely amazed on reading the UN Special Rapporteur’s report to find that “projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh recorded up to 92 % reduction in insecticide use for rice, leading to important savings for poor farmers.

      "Malawi, too is now implementing agroecology, benefiting more than 1.3 million of the poorest people, with maize yields increasing from 1 ton/ha to 2-3 tons/ha.”

      Viva la Revolution!

      The long list of pesticides…

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    16. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Shirley Birney

      Thanks Shirley,
      Atrazine is one we use a lot in Australia in rice but particularly the sugar cane industry. Cattle fertility rates dropped dramatically in South Africa and after much investigation the problem was found to be the residual Atrazine in the feed molasses. We have no idea if Atrazine use is lowering fertility in humans due to our massive sugar intake. It probably is, but our silo mentality (born of reductionism) means we haven't joined the dots yet.

      If you aren't familiar with…

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  35. ian cheong

    logged in via email @acm.org

    If everything stays the same, maybe demand will outstrip supply. But unending linear growth trends are unsustainable and unrealistic. If demand exceeds supply, then the market responds by raising prices. Raising prices lowers demand. Rising prices puts a lid on consumption. At some point, population growth becomes unaffordable and it will stop.

    Presently, the cheapest food is processed meat, potatoes, and sugar. Consumption of those appears to be making the developed world fat. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21696306

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    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to ian cheong

      "At some point, population growth becomes unaffordable and it will stop."

      When people start killing each other over scarce food and resources in civil wars, gang warfare and genocide etc.

      If you want a more acceptable outcome then developing world fertility must be controlled one way or the other.

      We could start by providing as many as possible developing world woman with contraception of their choice for free.

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    2. ian cheong

      logged in via email @acm.org

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      That would be better, but not the sort of thing you can do when people in well-off countries like to provide "food aid" in preference to providing social engineering and the backlash against that. Much easier for climate changers to push nuclear energy on developing countries.

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  36. William Hughes-Games

    Garden weed puller

    Michael, you hit the nail on the head when you said that most of the farmers' income goes to the banks. Here in New Zealand, we allow overseas concerns, often vertically integrated businesses, to purchase our land. To make it easier for them, we have been known to sell off 10 0r more farms in a block so that it is out of reach of an individual share milker who now wants to own his own farm. This overseas competition has sent the price of our farm land soaring far beyond its intrinsic worth. Farmers then have to take out obscenely high mortgages, usually from Australian banks, to buy their farms and spend the rest of their lives working for the banks. The only time the farmer makes any money is when he sells the farm so he becomes complicit in this draconian system. He doesn't want to see the price of his farm fall and he would even be willing to sell it to a non-kiwi in order to get something out of it. How can we be so intelligent individually and so stupid in the collective.

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    1. Michael Croft

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to William Hughes-Games

      Its the same the world over William and it is the logic of capitalism. In the developing world its called "land grabbing" when foreigners buy up large tracks of arable land. In the developed world our governments call the same process "foreign investment".

      Complicity and collective stupidity are part of the Trans-Tasman deal. In Australia the banks are not foreclosing on farms because it would create huge losses on their balance sheets following the fire sales and consequent reduced valuations. So the valuations are being held up, but at some point the music will stop and there is a shortage of chairs.

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    2. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to William Hughes-Games

      Will buying 10 farms make for greater profit, or just greater expenditure.

      Do these foreign buyers have farming expertise, or do they employ locals to run the place.

      Will thy have better chances of making a profit, or will the land come onto the market again in 5 years or so?

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  37. LP Hock

    Retired

    Population grew where poverty strived. The world supply of grain from rich country like Australia, Canada etc cannot meet demand of processed manufactured food for the emerging countries. The solution must be in food recycling and compost. Of course, food waste management is least understood in the demand countries like India, Indonesia etc. Off the cuff, increasing arable land in fertile countries is no ideal. One idea is still transmigration of populous poor to compliment labour shortage in wealthy countries.

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    1. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to LP Hock

      Um slaves ... pay for their transport costs over, charge them for housing and food ... it has worked before, a shining pinnacle is the USA ... first the blacks, now the Hispanic people; after watching 4 Corners last night, Bangladesh would be a good place to put your 'transmigration' idea into practice

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  38. Bruce Carey

    Soil conservationist, Queensland

    Australian farmers could produce a lot more grain if we paid them more for their product. We only give them between 10 and 20 cents for the wheat used to produce the flour to make a loaf of bread. Our soils are running out of fertility because farmers can't afford the fertiliser (organic or otherwise) required to grow their crops

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