Bloomberg News

Food Supply Faces ‘Rough’ Two Decades, Crop Diversity Trust Says

December 01, 2011

Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- World food supply faces a “rough and volatile” 20 years as climate change, resource limits and a lack of innovation hold back farming, said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

While global food production is still rising, yield increases are slowing “noticeably,” Fowler wrote in an e- mailed newsletter today.

Global wheat yields on average rose 0.52 percent a year from 1990 to 2007, down from 2.95 percent in 1961-1990, Fowler wrote, citing researchers from three U.S. universities. Rice yield growth slowed to 0.96 percent from 2.19 percent, while corn yields fell to 1.77 percent from 2.2 percent.

“Yields of rice and wheat no longer keep up with population growth,” Fowler wrote. “This can’t be a good sign.”

The Rome-based trust funds seed banks designed to save plant varieties that may carry useful traits from disappearence, and gets funding from donors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Governments and development agencies are starting to realize “production itself” is becoming a problem, in addition to poverty, the director said. Mismatched supply and demand trends means food price volatility and increasing hunger and food security are “unavoidable.”

“The next decade or two will be rough and volatile,” Fowler wrote. “Climate variability, physical constraints and the lack of innovation in the pipeline will see to that.”

Production limits including cropland availability, water for irrigation and affordable fertilizer will “shape our world and future profoundly,” Fowler said.

‘Productive Varieties’

Most governments “rested on these successes” of the so- called Green Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s that boosted production, resulting in a lack of crop-research funding in the 1990s that is affecting output, Fowler said.

“Yields stagnate unless you replace current varieties with more productive varieties,” Fowler wrote. “Failure to fund research in the 1990s is being felt now.”

The trust plans to move its headquarters to Bonn, Germany in the middle of 2012, according to Fowler.

--Editors: Sharon Lindores, Claudia Carpenter

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at rruitenberg@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Carpenter at ccarpenter2@bloomberg.net.


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