Feeding the Future
We Can Have Our Forests and Eat, Too

Forests play important environmental, cultural, and—if they’re sustainably managed—economic roles, but as countries tackle the thorny question of how to feed future generations, worries grow that those many benefits might need to be subsumed by a push to fell trees to create more arable land for food production. But a new report says that by increasing agricultural intensity—that is, growing more food on the same amount of land—we can ensure our future food security without resorting to deforestation.

Reuters reports:

“There has always been the thinking that in order to produce more food to feed the growing population you need to clear more land for agriculture,” said Eva Muller, director of the Forestry Policy and Resources Division at FAO. “(But) it is possible (to produce more food without cutting forests),” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview. […]

Chile, Vietnam, Gambia and Ghana were among more than 20 countries that in the past two decades improved their food security by increasing agricultural production, while maintaining or increasing forest cover, FAO said.

One of the key factors, Muller said, was investment in agriculture to boost production. “The investment in agriculture was mainly to increase agriculture productivity through intensification rather than in clearing new land for agriculture,” she said.

As the pace of technological progress accelerates, we’re going to see ripple effects across a number of industries, and that’s going to produce some exciting new possibilities for how we grow our food. We’re already seeing that with genetically modified crops that are capable of flourishing in more extreme environments with fewer pesticides while producing higher yields. As we continue to improve and innovate on GM technologies, we’re going to be able to increase agricultural intensities to levels our ancestors would’ve never thought possible—and we may have already passed that level with modern practices.

It’s crucial, then, that we don’t allow Luddite green groups like Greenpeace to derail the efforts of our best and brightest to creatively solve that ever-present problem of how we feed our global population. GMOs are perfectly safe, and they’re becoming an increasingly necessary option for farmers around the world. Environmentalists would do well to embrace them, because they won’t just help their children and their children’s children eat—they’ll help prevent deforestation.

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