If we don’t make some serious changes to our agricultural system, the world may find itself out of food before the year 2050. In a new report, crop scientist Stephen P. Long of the University of Illinois says “We have to start increasing production now, faster than we ever have. Any innovation we make today won’t be ready to go into farmers’ fields for at least 20 years . . . that’s why we say we’re one crop breeding cycle away from starvation.”
By the time the year 2050 hits, we’ll need to produce 87 percent more of the primary food crops wheat, rice, soy, and maize to keep up with the world’s growth. This would be challenging even with unlimited space, yet our crop fields are constantly encroached upon by urban development and strained by an always-growing population. The effects of climate change will also make crop production harder due to rising temperatures, severe droughts, and powerful storms.
One potential solution proposed by researchers at UI is genetically engineering crops to be able to withstand the effects of global warming. They are currently studying the effects of modifying the enzyme in plants that traps CO2 in photosynthesis to make the process more efficient. Test-runs are being conducted to see if this technology can withstand the alarming changes happening around the globe. Long argues, “In the face of the extraordinary challenges ahead, we simply do not have the luxury to rule out the use of any technology that may hold promise to improve crop performance.”