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University of Waterloo

Faculty of Mathematics

Global Food Crisis 2050 and Green Revolution 2.0

Natural Resources Group


Ontario Teachers Pension Plan
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Christopher Ng
20438815
3B Financial Analysis & Statistics
May 2015

May 1, 2015

Thierry Bdard
Portfolio Manager, Natural Resources Group
Ontario Teachers Pension Plan
5650 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M2M 4H5

Dear Thierry,

I have prepared the enclosed report, Global Food Crisis 2050 and Green Revolution 2.0, as my
3B work report for Natural Resources Group at Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. This report, the
second of four work reports that the Co-operative Education Program requires that I
successfully complete as part of my BMath Co-op degree requirements, has not received
academic credit.

Natural Resources Group invests in resources-generating assets. My job as a Co-op required


that I assist with the investment and portfolio management process. This report is an in-depth
study of potential world food shortage in 2050 and technologys role in solving the problem.

The Faculty of Mathematics requests that you evaluate this report for command of topic and
technical content/analysis. Following your assessment, the report, together with your evaluation,
will be submitted to the Math Undergrad Office for evaluation on campus by qualified work
report markers. The combined marks determine whether the report will receive credit and
whether it will be considered for an award.

Sincerely,
Christopher Ng

Encl.

Table of Contents
Executive Summary .............................................................................................................................................. iv
1.0 Problem: Global Food Crisis 2050 ................................................................................................................ 1
1.1 Causes ...................................................................................................................................................... 1
1.2 Impacts .................................................................................................................................................. 5
2.0 Solution: Green Revolution 2.0.....................................................................................................................7
2.1 History: Green Revolution................................................................................................................7
2.2 Future: Green Revolution 2.0........................................................................................................16
2.3 Risks .....................................................................................................................................................16
3.0 Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................................16
References ................................................................................................................................................................16

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List of Figures
Figure 1. Projected Population Growth (in billions) .................................................................................... 2
Figure 2. Projection of Crop Yields due to Climate Change ...................................................................... 3
Figure 3. Water Stress Increase Due to Growing Water Use and Higher Temperatures ................16
Figure 4. International Land-Grabbing.............................................................................................................7
Figure 5. Crop Yield 1961-1980, World and Select Countries .................................................................... 9
Figure 6. Crop Production 1961-1980, World and Select Countries ........................................................ 9
Figure 7. Indonesia: Rice Yield and Fertilizer ...............................................................................................16
Figure 8. India: Grain Yield and Fertilizer......................................................................................................16

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Executive Summary
The world is facing a potential food shortage by 2050, due to factors such as population growth,
increasing food demand per capita, climate change and water stress. Historically, food crisis
caused drastic impacts, including famine, economic imbalance and social and political unrests.

One of the potential solutions is the Green Revolution 2.0, which involves the development of
high-yielding varieties of crops, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of
management techniques and application of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides.
This report investigates two of the latest technologies in agriculture, including intensifying
photosynthesis in crops and developing crop varieties that can grow in less ideal habitats.

While technology can help improve world crop production, there are several major drawbacks
that have caused controversy in the past. For example, health and environmental concerns were
raised against genetically modified crops.

As a result, rigorous examination of the potential drawbacks should be made. Alternative


methods, including market reform, agroecology and reducing food waste, should also be
considered.

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1.0 Problem: Global Food Crisis 2050


There may not be enough food to feed the world population by 2050. According to Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2012), global food demand is expected to
double between 2014 and 2050, while various challenges may hinder the required growth rate of
global food production. A similar research, conducted by Global Harvest Initiative (2014), also
points to a similar conclusion the global total factor production, a ratio of agricultural
productivity, is not accelerating fast enough to meet the expected global agricultural output
needs of 2050.

1.1 Causes
There are several drivers that raise concerns of the Global Food Crisis 2050, including
population growth, higher food demand per capita, climate change and water stress.

Population growth
The worlds population is expanding at a rapid rate and is expected to increase from 7.18 billion
to 9.6 billion people, or a 33.7 percent growth, by 2050. (United Nations, Department of
Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2014) Figure 1 shows the projected population
growth from 2012 to 2050; more than half of this growth will occur in sub-Saharan Africa, a
region where one-quarter of the population is currently undernourished. (Ranganathan, 2013)

Figure 1. Projected Population Growth (in billions) (Ranganathan, 2013)

Food demand per capita


Not only the world population is growing at a fast pace, the average food intake per person is
also expected to increase significantly. With growing economies, particularly in China and India,
the two most populated countries in the world, the worlds middle class is expected to boom
from 50 to 70 percent of the population by mid-century. (Food and Agriculture Organization of
the United Nations, 2009) Such trend will then enable more people to afford diets of larger
portion and higher quality protein. In fact, it was shown that, from 2013 to 2030, poultry and egg
demand will increase by 63 percent, milk by 55 percent, and ruminant meat by 44 percent, all of
these food source in turn require huge amount of crop input. (Havlika, Valina, Herrerob, et al,
2014)

Climate change
Natural disasters are occurring with increasing frequency and they are harming crop yields.
Climate scientists expect that changing rainfall patterns and rising temperatures will make
certain areas drier and other areas wetter, which will lower crop yields if farmers fail to adapt
with suitable agricultural practices and/or technologies. (Beddington, Asaduzzaman, Clark, et al,
2012) Moreover, shifting rainfall patterns can also lead to more frequent natural disasters, such
as storms, floods and droughts, and add an additional layer of uncertainty to crop production.
Figure 2 shows that climate change is expected to negatively impact crop yields, particularly in
the hungriest parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa.

Figure 2. Projection of Crop Yields due to Climate Change (Ranganathan, 2013)

Water stress
Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of extracted water worldwide and is expected to increase to
89 percent by 2050. (United Nations World Water Assessment Programme, 2014) The growth
in water use and an expected 3C rise in global temperature will lead to significant water stress
in many agricultural areas by 2025, as illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Water Stress Increase Due to Growing Water Use and Higher Temperatures
(Ranganathan, 2013)

Other drivers
Other factors, such as higher urbanization rate, decrease in agricultural land, increasing use of
biofuel and lack of technological breakthrough can also post obstacles to sufficient growth in
food production.

1.2 Impacts
The Global Food Crisis can lead to drastic consequences, including famine, economic imbalance
and social and political unrests.

Famine
The shortage of food supply to cover food demand causes, by definition, famine, which in turn
induces regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic and increased mortality. Furthermore, the
phenomenon leads to negative consequences far longer-lasting than the duration of famine.
Research shows that in-utero and early childhood exposure to famine had significant negative
effects on adult height, weight, weight-for-height, educational attainment and labour supply,
which adversely impact a region in the decades following a famine. (Meng X. & Qian N., 2009)
Famine can also lead to higher crime rate, prostitution and trafficking.

Economic imbalance
Inevitable commodity price hikes in a food crisis will result in a worsened economic imbalance
at the national and international level. The poorest billion people typically are net food buyers
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and spend 50 to 70 percent of their income on food. (Bourne, 2009) During a food crisis, these
people and countries will need to expend a larger proportion of their income to buy food from
the net food sellers, usually wealthier people and countries, and in the process form a vicious
cycle.

Social and political unrests


An economic imbalance could trigger a series of social and political unrests. In fact, the
commodity price shock in 2008 led to riots in countries such as Egypt, Bangladesh and Haiti.
(CNN, 2008) At the international level, wealthier nations and institutional investors have been
buying foreign farmlands, usually in poorer nations. Figure 4 shows the network of such trades,
sometimes known as land-grabbing. Big land-grabbers (red triangles) include Britain, the
United States, China and the United Arab Emirates while the most targeted lands (green circles)
are located in certain African and Asian countries, such as Congo, Sudan, Indonesia and
Tanzania. These trades show a similar vicious cycle of economic imbalance at a macro level and
can lead to wars in devastating circumstances.

Figure 4. International Land-Grabbing (Plumer, 2013)

2.0 Solution: Green Revolution 2.0


If the World Food Crisis is to occur in 2050, the consequences will be devastating and
prolonged. It is important to find ways to counter the problem, by both increasing supply and
lowering demand for food. An obvious source is technology. In fact, technological advancement
was the major contributor to solving the previous looming World Food Crisis between the
1940s and the late 1960s. The triumph was later dubbed the Green Revolution.

2.1 History: Green Revolution


Led by American scientist Norman Borlaug, who later received a Nobel Peace Prize for his effort
pioneering the initiative, the Green Revolution involved the development of high-yielding

varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management


techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers. In
the 1940s, Borlaug developed genetically modified varieties of wheat that had higher disease
resistance, higher yield and faster maturity. By combining Borlaugs wheat varieties with also
newly developed chemical fertilizers and synthetic herbicides and pesticides, Mexico, which
imported almost half of their wheat supply prior to the help of the technologies, became a net
wheat exporter. (Briney) The technologies of the Green Revolution spread and increased crop
yield worldwide. For example, India adopted, among other crop varieties, a rice variety named
IR-8. Compared with other rice varieties, IR-8 was more resistant to wind and rain, had quicker
maturity which allowed for two to three crops in a single year. Under favourable conditions,
each planting could yield four to six times as much as most traditional varieties. (Gaud, 1968)
Figure 5 shows that the US and China experienced significant improvement in crop yield from
1961 to 1980 while India and world average crop yield also saw steady growth. Figure 6 shows
that the US, China and India were able to increase crop production from 1961 to 1980, with
Chinas production more than doubled its output from 110 million tonnes to around 280 tonnes.
World crop production also experienced compelling growth, from 870 million tonnes to more
than 1.5 billion tonnes, in the same period.

k Hg/Ha

50
45
40
35

30
25

20
15
10
5
0

1961

1966
China

1971
India

US

1976
World

Figure 5. Crop Yield 1961-1980, World and Select Countries

350

2100

300

1800

250

1500

200

1200

150

900

100

600

50

300

mm tonnes

mm tonnes

(Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Statistics Division, 2015)

1961

1966
China

1971
India

1976
US

World (LHS)

Figure 6. Crop Production 1961-1980, World and Select Countries


(Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Statistics Division, 2015)

2.2 Future: Green Revolution 2.0


The trend toward higher yields had flattened since, but scientists are finding new ways to
engineer new crop varieties and agricultural techniques, with technologies not available to
Borlaug during the first Green Revolution, to fuel a potential Green Revolution 2.0. For instance,
scientists now know the sequence of nearly all of the 50,000 or so genes in corn and soybean
plants, which are keys that enable them to genetically modify the crops in ways unimaginable
only four or five years ago, according to Robert Fraley, chief technology officer for the
agricultural giant Monsanto. (Bourne, 2009) The improvement in computing power of
supercomputers also allows for the keys to be run in more permutations in shorter time, further
speeding up the research process.

Supercharging photosynthesis
Stephen Long, a British-born plant scientist, and his colleagues aim to improve the ability of
plants to harness sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into starch in the process of photosynthesis.
(Clabby, 2012) According to Long, plants currently operate at about one third of their potential
photosynthetic efficiency climate-change experiments have shown that rising atmospheric
levels of carbon dioxide led to a 15 percent raise in yield in vital crops like wheat, rice and
soybean. With the help of supercomputers and data analytic algorithms, Longs team hopes to
identify the one or few proteins that serve as genetic switches that could mimic the action. On
the other hand, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem experimented with adding a
gene from cyanobacteria, which have a talent for concentrating CO2 within their cells at levels

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that make photosynthesis more efficient, into tobacco plants. The resultant crops achieved a 20
percent increase in yield. (Clabby, 2012)

Resilient crop varieties


Other researchers are developing crop varieties that flourish in less ideal environments. For
example, in 2006, researchers at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) crosspollinated a low-yielding but submergence-resistant rice variety with a high-yielding, flavorful
rice variety. The new flood-tolerant rice, called Swarna-Sub1, has been distributed to farmers
across flood-heavy regions in Asia. One recent study found that farmers in 128 villages in the
Indian state of Odisha increased their yields by more than 25 percent. (Folger)

The case of Swarna-Sub1 shows two implications on the fundamental challenges facing the Food
Crisis. Firstly, by developing more resilient crops, expanding and improving world arable land
area is made possible. Indeed, through appropriate treatments to the poorest arable land, global
food production can be increased by 58 percent. (Foley) Secondly, the breeding of Swarna-Sub1
indicates an alternative approach to develop new crop varieties that is much faster than the
traditional method. During the Green Revolution, scientists had to select plants with the
desired trait, cross-pollinate, wait for the offspring to reach maturity, select the best performers
and repeat the whole process again. Ever since researchers mapped the entire rice genome in
2004, they were able to utilize a technology called marker-assisted breeding to screen the DNA
to determine which seedlings had actually inherited the target gene. The technology, as used to
breed Swarna-Sub1, dramatically increased both the accuracy and efficiency of the process.

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(Folger) As stated by Ismail, a research at IRRI, This form of breeding used to take 6-15 years,
now we can have a tolerant variety in only 2-3 years. (Clabby, 2012) The shortened duration for
crop development can lead to a more targeted approach to increase yield in various types of land.

Other technologies
There are also other technologies that scientists think can be part of Green Revolution 2.0,
including mutating certain crops to produce vitamins and automating farming practices with
the help of data analytics and drones.

2.3 Risks
While modern technologies can undoubtedly raise global crop production, there are many
drawbacks and considerations that make Green Revolution, or a potential Green Revolution 2.0,
controversial.

Health concerns
The most common opposition of Green Revolution is its potential negative health impact.
Throughout the years, many scientific researches point to the conclusion that genetically
modified (GM) food has a casual association with adverse health effects. Experiments
conducted by Velimirov, Binter and Zentek (2008) concluded that negative reproductive effects
were observed in mice fed on a transgenic maize. Malatesta, Boraldi, Annovi, et al (2008), fed
female mice with a genetically modified soybean and concluded that GM soybean intake can
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influence some liver features during ageing. Other animal studies also showed significant
immune dysregulation, including upregulation of cytokines associated with asthma, allergy, and
inflammation. (Finamore, Roselli, Britti, et al, 2008; Kroghsbo, Madsen, Poulsen, et al, 2008)
On the other hand, other scientists stated that a lot of studies that portrayed the most dramatic
health effects of GM crops were deeply flawed. (Roxanne, 2013) Pamela Ronald, a University of
California at Davis professor, even wrote that there is a broad scientific consensus that
genetically engineered crops currently on the market are safe to eat. (Ronald, 2011) However,
the disagreement did not give enough confidence to consumers.

Environment
Another major criticism of Green Revolution was its negative impact on the environment. Most
GM crops required, or still require, application of large quantities of fertilizer, pesticides and
water.
Genetically uniform monocultures were typical in Green Revolution farming. This practice led
to many side effects that increased farmers dependency on pesticides, including pest resistance
and outbreaks, disruption of the natural balance, and destruction of habitat for beneficial insects.
(Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific, 2007) Research by Fitzgerald-Moore and Parai
showed that, as shown in Figure 7 and Figure 8, the application of fertilizer in rice production in
Indonesia between 1975 and 1990 rose from under 25 kg/ha to over 150 kg/ha, while the
application of fertilizer in grain production in the same period rose from approximately 15 kg/ha
to over 75 kg/ha. (Fitzgerald-Moore & Parai, 1996) Similarly, in India alone, annual application

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of pesticides increased substantially from about 2000 tonnes in the mid-1950s to in excess of
80,000 tonnes in the mid-1980s. (Postel, 1987)

Figure 7. Indonesia: Rice Yield and Fertilizer

Figure 8. India: Grain Yield and Fertilizer

(Fitzgerald-Moore & Parai, 1996)

(Fitzgerald-Moore & Parai, 1996)

The heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides led to large numbers of diseases and deaths,
especially in poorer countries where farmers had less protective equipment and awareness. The
World Health Organization estimated that around 25 million farmers suffered from chemical
poisoning, where 200,000 people were killed annually; Oxfam found that about 375,000 people
in the third world being poisoned and 10,000 killed by pesticides each year. (Pesticide Action
Network Asia and the Pacific, 2007)

In addition, Green Revolution farming required a high level of irrigation, causing water
depletion and salinization. Over-exploitation of water had significantly lowered worlds
groundwater table. For example, Lakhbir Singh, 35, had to use a special submersible engine to
help haul the water to surface from his well, which was 60 feet deep in 1997, but down to 450
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feet ten years later. (Barta, 2007) On the other hand, salinity was reported to affect more than 20
percent of the irrigated land in China and Pakistan. (Pesticide Action Network Asia and the
Pacific, 2007)

Others
While Green Revolution directly caused health and environmental disruptions, it also led to,
perhaps less obviously, other problems, such as economic disparity, deforestation and global
warming.

3.0 Conclusion
While technology provides an effective way to solve or mitigate the imminent food shortage,
rigorous examination of the potential drawbacks should be made. Alternative methods,
including market reform, agroecology and reducing food waste, should also be considered.

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