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Future Forecasts of Food, Feed and Fuel Needs
Spiertz, J.H.J. and Ewert, F. 2009. Crop production and resource use to meet the growing demand for food, feed and fuel: opportunities and constraints. Netherlands Journal of Agricultural Science 56: 281-300.

Due to the growing population of the planet and changing preferences in diet, the authors write that in a joint publication of the United Nations' Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and its Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), entitled Agricultural Outlook 2008-2017, "it is estimated that global food demand will increase by 50% and the area of cultivated land by 10% by 2030." And this is the case even "assuming yield increases of 40% for major commodity crops."

These findings clearly put mankind in a very precarious position. And many governments around the world have made the situation even worse -- for both us and nature -- by mandating increased production of biomass for energy, which threatens, in the words of Spiertz and Ewert, not only "food security," but "water resources and biodiversity," as this latter enterprise will almost certainly require our taking unconscionable amounts of both land and water from earth's already severely limited natural ecosystems, simply to obtain what we will need to feed ourselves less than two decades from now.

What was done
Spiertz and Ewart's study "reviews and discusses the opportunities and limits of crops and resources for food, feed and biofuel production."

What was learned
The two researchers -- one from the Netherlands and the other from Germany -- conclude that "commercial biomass production will compete with food crops for arable land and scarce fresh water resources." And they say that "the rapidly growing demand for food, feed and fuel will require a combination of further increases in crop yields (ca. 2% per annum) and a doubling or tripling of resource-use efficiencies, especially of nitrogen-use efficiency and water productivity in production systems with high external inputs."

What it means
In terms of policy, Spiertz and Ewart write that "to avoid negative impacts on food security, governments should give high priority to 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation technologies for bioenergy," which generational trend suggests to us that the situation is so bleak that it would probably be best to burst the biofuel bubble right now, rather than letting it continue to inflate food prices, as it has arguably already done, negatively impacting people worldwide while actually devastating the poor.

Reviewed 16 March 2011