View from the fence

Social, environmental and economic issues surrounding GM foods, and the latest news

What if we don’t grow more food?

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The figures vary, but predictions about how much food we will need to produce in the future show an increase. This is largely due to population growth and changing diets. We won’t just have more people to feed, we will have more middle class people to feed. People tend to eat more meat and dairy products when they have more money at their disposal. If we feed crops to cows not people, we need to grow more crops.

But what happens if food production doesn’t increase? Do wealthy people have to go without meat, or do poorer people have to go without food? 

This question doesn’t have a simple answer; it just prompts discussions about inequality and food justice.

I was struck by the relevance of a recent article by Ian Boyd, Defra’s chief scientific advisor.

He pointed out the need for demand-side innovation as well as supply-side innovation. Take energy saving lightbulbs. The supply-side innovation was fantastic: lightbulbs are now far more efficient. However, energy consumption still went up as we used more lightbulbs. We lacked the demand-side innovation to, for example, change behaviour.

In the case of food production, the supply-side innovation includes high-yield crops and farming systems. My question above instead relates to the demand side, and I look forward to these innovations.

Author: Rebecca Nesbit

I am author of a popular science book 'Is that Fish in your Tomato?' exploring the fact and fiction of GM crops. In my work and leisure so far, I have trained bees to detect explosives, used a radar to study butterflies for my PhD, written a novel, taken the train from London to China, organised Biology Week, sold science jewellery on Etsy, and traveled to four continents with Nobel Laureates. Best off all, I've made lots of friends whose support I very much appreciate. Thank you! Please visit my website:

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