022_G19_FoodSecurity

Global

Global Insight Food Security From rice to riches As the world’s population grows ever larger, scientists are busy analysing staple foods such as rice and wheat to see if yields and disease resistance can be increased to improve food security Andrew Mourant How many more people will there be on Earth by 2050, and how will they be fed? These are among the most fundamental questions facing humanity. Discussions around them sometimes contain a tone of desperation – the sense of a race against time to avoid catastrophe. A UN median estimate that by 2050 there will be nine billion of us is widely cited. This is based on an assumption that family planning services will exist in many countries where there currently are none and that birth rates will fall. But the UN also says that the fi gure could be as low as eight billion or as high as 10.5 billion – a huge disparity. Conventional wisdom has it that religious or cultural beliefs, or the quest for economic security, drive world population growth. But Professor John Guillebaud, emeritus professor of family planning and reproductive health at University College, London, doesn’t think it’s that simple. He believes half of pregnancies worldwide are unplanned – that large families are not so much planned as “an automatic outcome of human sexuality”. Demand for contraception increases when it is available, irrespective of a society’s wealth or child survival rates, he says. four 22 l www.global -br ief ing.org th quar ter 2014 global


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