More food and less genetic diversity: The cause of future declines in crop production.

Photo by Perry French |

It doesn’t take much to realize that as we continuously add individuals to the human population, it will become increasingly more difficult to produce enough food to efficiently feed us all.  It’s a simple concept; we have already seen the devastating evidence of this theory in reality.  Of course, there are political implications behind this as well, but the pressure put on food production by an increasing population cannot be ignored or overshadowed. 

Before anything can be done in an attempt to effectively mediate the dilemma (that is, above and beyond short-term ‘band-aid solutions’), decision-makers must understand the biological and environmental roots of the problem.

I recently read an article by NaturalNews addressing threats to global food security.  I immediately wondered how many skeptics will disregard these concerns and rely on the theory that technology (such as GMOs) and agribusiness will take care of any potential problems.  Malthus, the famous economist, noted that as population growth increases geometrically, food production does not necessarily follow the same pattern, and will continue to increase only arithmetically. 

Luckily, technological advancements have held up food productions thus far (for the most part), but I feel like nature will eventually override the human race, as it has done so many times before.

The article itself focuses on the decrease of genetic diversity within food crops as selection for certain characteristics (such as growth in specific climates) continues.  Ironically, genetic diversity serves as the foundation for the creation of new strains of crops, from which desired characteristics can be selected. 

The chances of growing foods resistant to otherwise detrimental environmental conditions (salinity, pests, and extreme weather, for example) decreases as the amount of genetic diversity declines.  Little genetic diversity means that crops can only grow effectively under limited circumstances. 

A recent report predicts that bean, peanut, and potato crops will decline by 22% by 2050 due to the lack of resistance against a changing climate.  At this rate, the loss of crop biodiversity will greatly determine exactly what percentage of the world will have enough food to eat in the years to come.

I see this warning as yet another piece of evidence proving that as much as humans try to control the planet’s natural processes, we can’t outsmart such dynamic systems forever.  Perhaps theories such as Malthus’ are made based on more than short-term solutions to global food production and, ultimately, are very right.