Here's Why We Haven't Quite Figured Out How to Feed Billions More People
Solving the world's looming food crisis will require big investments in agricultural research, yet public support for that is lagging.
When famine loomed in Mexico and southern Asia in the mid-20th century, agricultural crop researchers saved the day. Scientists at Mexico's International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the Philippines's International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) came up with new, high-yielding varieties of wheat and rice that raised harvests and kept starvation at bay.
That major advancement in crop production—financed with money from governments and the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations—increased yields of cereal grains by using improved crop seeds, irrigation systems, synthetic fertilizer, and pesticides. Led by American agronomist Norman Borlaug, this movement became known as the Green Revolution.
Most increases in agricultural production during the past half century have come from that type of innovation: