Feeding the Future

Imagine a busy workday morning in New York City. While cars honk, traffic has come to a complete standstill. Meanwhile, thousands of pedestrians pass through Times Square simply attempting to begin their days. The cool morning air, the deafening sound from construction sites, and the crowded rush of people can overwhelm even the natives of this way of life.

Now imagine that over the course of just a single second, the amount of people in the entire city doubled. The jam-packed streets are almost impossible to navigate and the area looks more like a riot zone than the safe place that parents choose to raise their children. This is not the latest science fiction blockbuster, but actually a very imminent reality. With Earth’s population expected to be double that of 1950, we will soon be faced with situations we can only imagine. One of the most endearing issues is how to supply the simplest resource needed for survival. How do feed this entire world? In 2006, the United Nations released the projection that the global population would grow from 6.

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7 billion people to 9.2 billion by the year 2050. At that moment, the agricultural industry went from being tasked with feeding a growing country to finding a solution for the most momentous issue humanity has ever seen. As an active member in the local FFA chapter and 4-H club, along with being a producer of both dairy and beef cattle, I have heard this statistic practically everyday since it was originally released. I am pleased to announce that I have witnessed the beginning of the most extraordinary feats mankind has ever conquered.

You see, the agricultural industry has acted like the finest of football teams, vigorously combining every skill and effort to make each other better. For a football team to be successful, each player must be in perfect synchronization. This is completed through the excellent communication that each player contributes. Agriculture has acted in almost the exact same way. To accomplish such a daunting task, farming is only the start of the answer.

Like a puzzle, there are many pieces needed to solve an issue like this, with the farmers themselves taking up simply a few small parts. Modern agriculture starts in a laboratory, similar to that used in the research and development of advancements in medicine. Some of the most brilliant scientists in the world have been working restlessly to find new ways to make farming more productive. They use the very subjects we are taught in school to combat this challenge. Ranging from your middle school biology class to the fourth hour chemistry class every high school student seems to dread, advanced variations of the principles we have only begun to learn in the classroom are applied to experimentation with new fertilizers and pesticides, producing new breeds of sheep, swine, and soybeans, and developing new equipment that can make farming more efficient and productive.

It is major advancements in the laboratory that can dramatically change not just the agricultural industry, but also the quality of life of every living person on earth, both now and in the future. As was mentioned earlier, one of the most impactful ways to revolutionize and improve the methods used in agriculture is to invest in the use of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering can improve a crop’s defense against disease, a cow’s ability to produce healthy, profitable milk, or create an enhanced fertilizer to make corn more productive. One of the obstacles to this is the opposition from the general public. Many people think that genetic engineering makes food unfit to eat.

This could not be farther from the truth. While initial alterations to a plants genetic makeup could be dangerous for consumption, extensive tests are done to make sure that food is safe before it is used in the fields and, after time, the supermarket. Any growth in this area could be the breakthrough that provides us with the power to supply the world with an ample amount of food. Another substantial improvement in agriculture could come from the ways we raise and produce crops, both for human consumption and feed for livestock. Where you live and what you eat are absolutely irrelevant.

We are all dependent on crops to survive. This means that improvements in crop production will affect the entire landscape of the agricultural industry. An improvement in crop production could allow more food that goes to your refrigerator, a higher quality of silage in a cow’s manger, and help protect soil, water, and other vital factors in the environment. Unfortunately, public opposition once again plays an enormous factor in advancements. The media has painted pesticides, herbicides, and certain fertilizers as being part of a recipe for disaster, believing that they are toxic and could threaten human life.

What they always forget is that farmers take pride in the quality and safety of their product. Testing is done both by producers and the federal government to assure that the food that reaches the kitchen table is of no threat to their family. Finally, improvements in the path used to produce meat and animal byproducts are enormous. New ideas in safer medicines, feeding rations, and the simple style used to raise animals can introduce dramatic advancements. The biggest development in recent years may be the use of artificial hormones. These allow animals to grow larger for meat, produce more milk from cows, and, if used correctly, could provide solutions to endless issues.

Research in the production and use of safe, artificial hormones should continue, and may open doors we can only imagine. We will all be affected by population growth and its increased demand on the global food supply, so to limit or slow these developments could threaten the survival of the human race as we know it. It is impossible to pinpoint a single development that can provide the answer to our dilemma, but the use of several enhancements could grow the food supply enough to meet demand.