What the next generation will eat is one of the biggest unanswered questions facing mankind.
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Seventy-four days. That is all that stands between mankind and starvation—the length of time the world’s food reserves would feed humanity before disappearing. From 1986 to 2001, the world held an average of 107 days’ worth of grain in storage. But from 2002 to 2011, the average dropped to just 74. Not even three months’ worth!
Shrinking levels of surplus food supplies are signaling that the future of food may not be as secure as most think. The Guardian quoted Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of Full Planet, Empty Plates: “Ever since agriculture began, carry-over stocks of grain have been the most basic indicator of food security.”
If mankind missed one harvest, it would begin to starve.
For thousands of years, man’s existence has been drawn from the soil. Civilizations unable to provide lasting sustenance for their people were invariably lost to history. Healthy, arable land has always been humanity’s most precious commodity. As its total area shrinks to dangerous, never-before-seen levels, and man’s population explodes, the very future of civilization is at stake. Too little food is being grown on too few acres to provide for the roughly 370,000 human beings born every day.
Like millions of American families living “paycheck to paycheck,” humanity is living harvest to harvest. Mr. Brown also stated, “An unprecedented period of world food security has come to an end. The world has lost its safety cushions and is living from year to year…” (ibid.).
Once-bountiful water sources are drying up. Arable land is dwindling. Now more than ever, mankind must address the issue of food security.
Regional Workbench, a think-tank composed of university professors, used an apple (representing Earth) to show how much of the planet is made up of arable land. While reading through the directions for this apple-Earth comparison, let this fact sink in: there is very little farmable soil!
(1) Imagine that you slice an apple into four quarters. Three of the quarters represent the amount of Earth’s surface made up of oceans. The remaining quarter is equal to the earth’s total land surface.
(2) Next, cut the “land” quarter in half and remove one of the remaining halves. This section represents the area of land humans cannot inhabit, such as very high or rocky mountains, deserts and areas around the North and South poles. The leftover half of the quarter—1/8 of the original apple—equals the areas in which humans can actually live.
(3) Take this small section and cut it into four pieces. Remove three of them, representing land where crops cannot be grown, along with urban areas like cities, factories, parks, etc.
(4) At this point, only 1/32 of the apple remains. Peeling the skin off this section gives you an idea of the total land surface available to grow crops—a miniscule fraction of the entire apple!
Realize the point here—only 1/32 of Earth’s surface contains arable topsoil. That is just 3 percent!
Even worse, University of Washington geologist David Montgomery told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “We’re losing more and more of it every day…The estimate is that we are now losing about 1 percent of our topsoil every year to erosion, most of this caused by agriculture.”
Compounding the problem further, growing acres of this arable land are not being used to produce food, but ecological fuel replacements. While some nations starve, other countries are literally burning their food. The Telegraph reported, “Last year, 120 million tons of corn was turned into gasoline—which in turn drove up the price of all kinds of food…”
“In a classic instance of the law of unintended consequences, America’s drive to reduce oil dependency and cut carbon emissions has led to huge amounts of farmland being given over to growing crops for petrol rather than human or animal feed…”
Land grabs are another problem. An Oxfam International report revealed, “Demand for land has soared as investors look for places to grow food for export, grow crops for biofuels, or simply buy-up land for profit.” Shockingly, the amount of land sold off by investors and companies in the last decade is so high that it could have fed one billion people. With at least 80 million hectares of land deals taking place since 2001, land is the new hot commodity.
Arable land is continually pushed beyond its natural production capacity. Once crops stop growing, land is often sprayed with a chemical concoction that forces more productivity. After it has been completely exhausted, the vast acreage is then sold for a profit and plowed, paved and built upon. As cities spring up and more farmland disappears worldwide, so does mankind’s ability to feed large numbers of people.
With the number of human beings on Earth doubling in the last 50 years, population growth has caught up with—and surged past—food production. The U.S. State Department reported, “Global food supplies must increase by an estimated 50 percent to meet expected demand in the next 20 years.”
As early as 2030, mankind’s population is set to hit 8.3 billion. Yet of today’s seven billion people, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates 870 million are already malnourished.
No one is sure how current food production can increase this dramatically. Lester Brown warned in a Guardian piece, “Yields are plateauing in many countries and new better seeds have failed to increase yields very much for some years…New trends such as falling water tables, plateauing grain yields and rising temperatures join soil erosion and climate change to make it difficult, if not impossible, to expand production fast enough.”
To understand the problem, picture the world’s population as one family, who has a monthly food ration, with relatively little fluctuation in the allotment—one gallon of milk, two loaves of bread, two chickens, two dozen eggs, etc. If the mother and father only had one or two children, everyone would have enough to eat. But as the family expands to three, four, then five children—with the same level of food coming in every month—the amount for each family member would shrink drastically.
Now picture the same family with 20 children, but still living on one gallon of milk, two loaves of bread, two chickens, and two dozen eggs—with more children on the way…
The problem is obvious!
Evan Fraser, author of Empires of Food, stated, “For six of the last 11 years the world has consumed more food than it has grown. We do not have any buffer and are running down reserves. Our stocks are very low and if we have a dry winter and a poor rice harvest we could see a major food crisis across the board...Even if things do not boil over this year, by next summer we’ll have used up this buffer…” (ibid.).
The Guardian summarized Mr. Brown’s Empty Planet, Empty Plates, in which he predicted “ever increasing food prices, leading to political instability, spreading hunger and, unless governments act, a catastrophic breakdown in food.”
Excerpting the book, the newspaper stated: “Food is the new oil and land is the new gold…We saw early signs of the food system unravelling in 2008 following an abrupt doubling of world grain prices. As they climbed, exporting countries [such as Russia] began restricting exports to keep their domestic prices down. In response, importing countries panicked and turned to buying or leasing land in other countries to produce food for themselves.”
Mr. Brown continued, “The result is that a new geopolitics of food has emerged, where the competition for land and water is intensifying and each country is fending for itself.”
As food becomes more precious, prices will rise. An article from The Telegraph reported, “The storm is coming. One of the great dependables of modern life—cheap food—may be about to disappear. If a growing number of economists and scientists are to be believed, we are witnessing a historic transition: from an era when the basics of life have been getting ever more affordable, to a new period when they are ever more expensive.
“Globally, food is still cheap: but new data from the World Bank shows that it may not remain that way for long…”
When food prices surge, already struggling families must find ways to continue putting food on the table. Hard choices must be made. Sadly, children are most affected. Jim Yong Kim, president of World Bank Group, said in a statement, “‘When food prices rise sharply, families cope by pulling their kids out of school and eating cheaper, less nutritious food, which can have catastrophic life-long effects on the social, physical, and mental well being of millions of young people…’”
More expensive food inevitably leads to an insecure world: “In the rich world, it takes a while for food-price inflation to have an effect. But in poorer regions even modest rises can have massive consequences: it was a spike in the price of bread as much as political dissent that sparked the Arab Spring, for example” (The Telegraph).
For thousands of years, there has always been a connection between war and food. Resources—land, food and water—have long been at the heart of nearly all conflicts throughout man’s history. During the last two centuries, much of the world had a respite from fighting over precious and expensive food. But, again, that era is almost over. And desperate, hungry people do desperate things.
The food riots of 2008 foreshadow what lies ahead. During that time, The New York Times reported of Haiti, “Hunger bashed in the front gate of Haiti’s presidential palace. Hunger poured onto the streets, burning tires and taking on soldiers and the police. Hunger sent the country’s prime minister packing. Haiti’s hunger, that burn in the belly that so many here feel, has become fiercer than ever in recent days as global food prices spiral out of reach, spiking as much as 45 percent since the end of 2006 and turning Haitian staples like beans, corn and rice into closely guarded treasures” (emphasis added).
With global food reserves running out, the question becomes: what will we eat?
Scientists believe they have a solution to the food crisis, but it may mean changing your taste buds. Some forecast that mankind will be trading beef burgers, steaks and sausages for versions made from insects such as caterpillars, grasshoppers and dung beetles. Morgaine Gaye, a “food futurologist,” proposed changing the term “insects” to “mini-livestock” to make it more palatable for the masses (BBC).
This may seem like a foreign concept, but the Netherlands is already beginning to implement it: “The Dutch government is putting serious money into getting insects into mainstream diets. It recently invested one million euros…into research and to prepare legislation governing insect farms” (ibid.). But most throughout Western society are still too squeamish about replacing their cheeseburgers with “beetleburgers” and would not be fooled by the “mini-livestock” label.
Others are developing genetically modified animals for consumption. After a 17-year process, an altered Atlantic salmon was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for commercial development, meaning it could hit American grocery shelves in the coming years. The salmon was engineered through splicing two extra genes (one from an ocean pout, a bottom-dwelling, eel-like fish) into its genetic makeup. The company responsible for the development claims that the fish grows twice as fast as the standard variety. It is the first genetically modified animal deemed “safe to eat.” However, the long-term effects of eating the “super fish” are unknown.
Then there is the still-experimental process of growing meat in laboratories, as reported by the Guardian: “In California, Professor Patrick Brown, a molecular biologist at Stanford University, is developing a way to turn plant tissue into fake meat, indistinguishable from the real thing and far cheaper. In the Netherlands, scientists are working on a way to grow real meat in a vat.”
The process involves using stem cells to create pieces of muscle tissue, although scientists are still deciding what this new food source should look like. Currently, it resembles calamari—not the most appealing or marketable consistency and shape.
If you find these ideas outlandish, you are not alone. Not all scientists believe these are viable options.
Finally, one optimistic, albeit unrealistic, proposal suggests that the world should switch to a vegetarian diet. This would dramatically decrease the amount of crops grown for animals raised for human consumption. The Telegraph reported, “If we cut meat consumption by 50 per cent, that would release an area of farmland bigger than the United States for extra food production. But that won’t happen…demand for meat is expected to double by 2050.”
Algae and seaweed (the fastest growing plant on Earth) are among the top candidates to provide extra nutrition to sustain future generations. Many believe these could be food alternatives because they grow plentifully in the vast oceans.
These proposals represent the best solutions science has offered to provide different sources of food! When traditional foods such as grains, corn, meat, fruit and vegetables can no longer be grown, the dinner plate of tomorrow could contain lab-grown meat, modified fish, a side of seaweed and fried insects.
These ideas sound more like plot points in a science-fiction movie, or a crazed school lunch lady’s newest concoction. Is this the “bright future” mankind can look forward to—or is there another solution?
As more recognize how little time remains to prevent worldwide famine, vast efforts are being organized to ensure food is here for future generations. The population shows no signs of slowing, leading ever greater numbers to call for dramatic intervention.
In an effort to develop effective solutions to combat the situation, the United Nations brought together 400 of the world’s top scientists and created the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). Having studied global agriculture for years, the experts involved in the project concluded that the real crisis—how mankind will feed itself in the future—has been pushed aside in favor of other pressing issues, such as extreme weather, disease, war and terrorism, creating a now impossible-to-contain situation.
In a controversial 2008 report addressing how to solve man’s food-security problems, they stated, “The way the world grows its food will have to change radically to better serve the poor and hungry if the world is to cope with a growing population and climate change while avoiding social breakdown and environmental collapse.”
An IAASTD statement said the authors of the report “conclude we have little time to lose if we are to change course. Continuing with current trends would exhaust our resources and put our children’s future in jeopardy.”
Scholars, scientists, agriculturists, farmers and world leaders are all failing to find tangible solutions to the food crisis. No significant progress is being made, and the future looks bleak. Even mankind’s best attempt to come together—the United Nations—is failing to deliver real solutions. World leaders recognize the urgency of addressing the food crisis, but do not know what to do about it. They are running out of options that they have not already tried.
Ironically, though, the solution has been hiding in plain sight for years.
In front of the United Nations Headquarters building in New York City stands a famous statue of a man using a hammer to beat a sword into a plowshare. Engraved in the statue are the words, “We shall beat our swords into plowshares.” The United Nations states that this statue symbolizes “man’s desire to put an end to war and convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of all mankind.”
While the UN desperately tries to feed the world, they do not realize they have inadvertently stumbled on the solution to humanity’s problems. It lies in the source of the engraving on this statue—the Bible.
Notice the origin of this saying: “…and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:4). This passage is actually emphasized in two other places in Scripture. It reveals the connection between land and violent conflicts that has long existed throughout mankind’s history. The verse holds a vital key to how the food crisis will be solved.
Consider. Famine often follows in the wake of war due to the devastation of land resulting from violent conflicts. Land mines destroy once-productive farmlands. Huge bombs desolate crops that were feeding towns and villages. Husbands, brothers and sons are killed in war, leaving widows to fend for themselves and grow their own food.
God’s Word reveals a future time when all nations will repurpose their swords—instruments of war—into plowshares—implements of food production.
Think of just the vast sums of money spent on defense that will be reallocated for food! Mankind’s violent nature will also be changed, a nature that robs so many families of the means to produce food. No more food riots or greedy land grabs. A peaceful environment for all peoples on Earth will exist.
Does all of this just sound like a hollow promise from a dusty, old religious book?
God’s Word has been widely lampooned, ridiculed and outright ignored throughout the halls of academia and science. It has been rejected as a source for real solutions to food insecurity. Yet why is it strange to think that the Creator of Earth, with all that it contains—plants, animals, birds, fish, human beings, and the cycles of times and seasons—would include solutions and instructions relating to agriculture in the Book He authored to help man live an abundant life?
In fact, He has. Notice just a few:
“When you come into the land…then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; but in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land…you shall neither sow your field, nor prune your vineyard” (Lev. 25:2-4).
“When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow” (Deut. 24:21).
“You shall not sow your field with mingled seed…” (Lev. 19:19).
Six thousand years ago, God created mankind and provided plants and animals for food. Yet man rejected God’s Way in the Garden of Eden and chose his own path. As a result, God allotted 6,000 years for him to learn that his own ways, systems, values and methods of governance do not work. When mankind finally keeps the natural laws of agriculture, it will reap abundant fruits.
But God’s Plan to provide for His Creation involves more than banishing war and teaching right farming methods. He is soon going to take away one of the biggest roadblocks agriculturists and farmers hit when attempting to provide more crops for the world’s growing population—lack of arable land.
In his book Tomorrow’s Wonderful World – An Inside View! David C. Pack explains the topographical changes that will occur with the establishment of a global supergovernment led by God—the only Being who can enact such widespread changes: “Take a moment to savor the meaning pictured in this related prophecy, also in Isaiah. Notice what will happen to the mountains:
“‘Fear not…you men of Israel; I will help you, says the Lord…Behold, I will make you a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: you shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shall make the hills as chaff. You shall fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and you shall rejoice in the Lord, and shall glory in the Holy One of Israel. When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together: That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it’ (Isa. 41:14-20).
“Can you imagine this happening around the world? Mountains and hills being shred like mulch, bubbling springs and new rivers appearing suddenly, and wilderness areas disappearing and being replaced by great forests of diverse trees. God says to ‘see,’ ‘know,’ ‘consider,’ and ‘understand’ the scope of what He promises.”
“This amazing prophecy depicts a world with plenty of room for people—and cities, parks, forests, recreation areas, crops, lakes, and rivers. The biggest challenge might be where to store the gargantuan food reserves that could soon appear. This would be a much better ‘problem’ than the food wars that numerous experts predict will come, if something does not happen soon.”
“And why should Isaiah’s prophecy seem strange? God’s purpose has always been that people be happy and peaceful, contented and joyful. While this is strange and unusual in this world, it is neither strange nor unusual to God. This is what He always intended for His creation. He wanted Adam and Eve to enjoy the garden from which they eventually had to be expelled.
“Since God formed the mountains (Ps. 90:2; Amos 4:13), He can also re-form them in any way that He wishes. He apparently will use great earthquakes to do much of the work (Zech. 14:4; Rev. 16:18), because He states, ‘The mountains quake at Him, and the hills melt’ (Nah. 1:5).
“Isaiah 40:4 states, ‘Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.’
“There are many great mountain ranges on Earth. Imagine the desolate, snow-covered, windswept stretches of the Himalayas, Alps, Rockies, Andes, Hindu Kush, Sierras, Pyrenees, and other great mountain ranges lowered or leveled and made fertile and inhabitable. Then picture the vast icepacks and mountain ranges of Antarctica, Greenland, and Siberia, including immense areas of tundra and permafrost, becoming available. Countless millions of acres will be made available to a mankind that could never do this for itself.”
“Now imagine how many great deserts would disappear. Start with much of the Middle East and almost all of Northern Africa. Picture the Sahara in Africa and nearly all of Saudi Arabia becoming lush and verdant. Then picture the Gobi desert in Asia and the Kalahari and Lake Chad basin, also in Africa, suddenly turning green, along with much of the American West and Southwest. More countless millions of acres of virtually useless land will become available for multiple purposes.
“Astonishing, but true—and in your lifetime!”
These changes will almost instantly open up huge untapped areas to grow crops. This will forever put an end to famine and hunger. Notice this prophecy from Ezekiel: “…I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that you shall receive no more reproach of famine…And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden…” (36:29-30, 34-35).
An earlier chapter in Ezekiel brings more detail, revealing that God will provide normal, beneficial weather patterns: “…I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the Lord…and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land…” (34:26-27, 29).
All nations will enjoy incredibly abundant harvests. Amos records, “Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that sows seed…they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them” (9:13-14).
The end of mankind’s era is rapidly approaching. It has taken nearly 6,000 years for the population to outpace food production. But in the face of all the mounting problems confronting man, God has a plan to ensure the pinnacle of His Creation—the human race—does not become an extinct species. Through His Word, He reveals that all nations will be provided for—finally making hunger and famine a thing of the past. Food security will be permanent!
To learn more about the modern food challenges facing every nation and the amazing agricultural future of mankind, read the thorough free books Mounting Worldwide Crisis in Agriculture and Tomorrow’s Wonderful World – An Inside View! They open new vistas of understanding about humanity’s ultimate bright future and provide hope for the coming years!