Saturday, November 25, 2006

Postpone the American famine...

Just when the food-or-fuel discussion is heating up, the relentless march of agricultural technology continues. To begin with, we will certainly be able to increase yields if the market encourages us just a little.
The Missouri Soybean Association plans to announce Kip Cullers of Purdy, in southwest Missouri, as the new record-holder and winner of its 2006 Yield Contest today. The new record of 139 bushels per acre — 21 bushels more than the previous world record set in Michigan — came as a shock to Wiebold and his colleagues.
Meanwhile we are still working to make the crops we grow more nutritious - and not just with "Evil" Genetic Modification.
Adding this gene back into the conventional wheat supply could help remedy the zinc and iron deficit suffered by more than two billion people worldwide, according to World Health Organization statistics. And more than 160 million children lack adequate protein in their diet, which this enhanced wheat could supply. "If you do not have anything else available to eat, it would be good to have wheat that provides more protein and micronutrients," Dubcovsky says. "We are also working on a new mutant that will eliminate an antinutrient present in wheat--phytic acid--which reduces the bioavailability of the zinc and iron present in the grain." [More]
We are even turning things we can't eat into an acceptable food source.
Researchers have genetically engineered cotton plants that produce toxin-free seeds, potentially unlocking enough nutritional content to feed half a billion people worldwide each year.

Cotton is grown in more than 80 countries and is a primary source of fibre for textiles, providing an important cash crop to some 20 million farmers in Asia and Africa. But a little-known characteristic of the cotton plant is that for every kilogram of fibre that is produced, it also yields 1.65 kilograms of seed packed with high-quality protein. So cotton plants have the ability to meet the protein requirements of millions with no reduction to the output of cotton fibres. [More]
Mind you, I don't think cotton seed meal is going to threaten donuts as a popular food, but at least poorer countries can start getting food and fiber from the same crop.

In short, it may be premature to look at current supplies and accurately estimate future farm output. I don't think we have any idea what kinds of crops and yields we can produce, nor do we understand the capacity of our natural resources. The fact scientists all over the world, in partnership with every type and size producer have a consistent track record of larger and more efficient production suggests we will continue this quiet improvement for years to come.

Simply because we don't know how it will happen, does not make believing it will happen foolish.

Actually, it has proven to be an effective marketing axiom.

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