Seeding the future

By 2050, the world’s population is projected to rise to 9.6 billion people and sustainably growing enough food for a hungry world will be one of the greatest challenges facing humankind.  A recurring theme in a number of our stories for this issue is the question of what measures need to be taken to feed this growing global population and what will be the challenges along the way.

Seeds are invaluable resources. In our feature, Saving our seeds we look at how exponential growth in the world seed market is being driven by this seemingly insatiable demand for food by the global population.  A recent report describes how global seed market vendors have had to adapt to the combined economic pressures of global population growth, climate change, scarcer land resources and shifting agricultural policy dynamics brought about as a result of increasingly stringent regulation.  The report also traces how, as the demand for organic products increases, so does the demand for organic seed in all sectors, including the corn, soybean and sorghum sectors.

The first so-called ‘Green Revolution’ used hybrid seeds, modern crop management and chemical fertilisers and pesticides to save millions of lives. However, the World Resources Institute said it came at a cost: Agriculture has become the “dominant driver” of tropical deforestation, accounts for 70 per cent of all freshwater withdrawals from rivers, lakes and aquifers and emits much of world’s greenhouse gases.

Many industry experts agree that industrial agriculture has led to a dramatic erosion of the world’s seed diversity. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in the century leading up to the year 2000, the world lost 75 per cent of the genetic diversity of its agricultural crops.

It is sobering to think that 10 companies now control more than two-thirds of global proprietary seed sales. As some big corporations move to consolidate their stranglehold on seed proprietorship by patenting more and more seeds, and with the advent of GM crops, a groundswell movement is fighting back, notably with its advocacy of heirloom seeds and ‘Open Source’ seed saving networks.

Still on the theme of food security, respected industry expert Peggy Bradley looks at Simplified Hydroponics and how it may hold the key to ending world hunger, while our story on French insect breeding innovator Ynsect shows how the company has raised a total of $37m over the last three years to tackle the issue of food security through mass-scaling the breeding of insects for global animal feed markets.

Enjoy this issue!

Christine Brown-Paul

PH&G February 2017 / Issue 176