Feeding The World

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'Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.'

(Louis Pasteur)

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What would be better:

- World Food production at the rate of 70-100 tonnes per hectare a year,


- World Food production at the rate of 2-3 tonnes per hectare a year?

(No, this isn't a trick question. Among the following papers is a proposal by CSIRO agricultural scientists on September 30, 2009.

Guess which answer they chose...)

The information below covers:

    • Ways to substantially increase productivity in arid-zone agriculture. This is likely to be of increasing significance. For example drying of major agricultural regions such as southern Australia is anticipated as a result of climate change.
    • New agricultural crops that grow fastest with a concentrated supply of carbon dioxide may provide a commercially-viable market for CO2 captured from coal-fired power generation. This is a very desirable possibility to explore as the expense and risks of geosequestration would be reduced, if not avoided altogether.
    • Changes in agriculture over the last 2-3 decades, such as grain feeding of cattle in feed-lots, may have had unintended and adverse impacts on the health of human populations. This presents an opportunity to develop and market agricultural products designed specifically to address health concerns that are emerging and that may increase sharply at any time.
    • The intellectual property rights system encourages commercial development of genetically-modified ("GM") plants and animals. Even if you assume there are adequate safeguards and that the new GM plants and animals are beneficial, it can still be argued that comparable incentives should be introduced for the commercial development of naturally-occurring species. These new incentives are justifiable so that potential new naturally-occurring food resources are not ignored only because the intellectual property system creates an artificial preference for patentable GM species.

Algae can be grown at the rate of 70-100 tonnes per hectare a year.

They grow best in hot climates with little rainfall. (Much of Australia's drought-affected farming regions, and arid areas in South Australia sound ideal.)

Some species of algae produce lots of omega 3 oils.

Click here to open just one of many examples of reports on the growth rates of algae.

World Grain Yield Per Hectare from 1950-2000 increased from 1.03 to 2.75 tonnes.

"Perhaps the largest question hanging over the future of biotechnology is the possible long-term environmental and human health effects of using genetically modified crops" (Eco-Economy: Building an Economy for the Earth by Lester R. Brown)

Click here to open an example of a study on world agricultural productivity increases.

Omega 3 oils are reported to be important for health.

According to one report: "Today we know that Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal growth and may play an important role in the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease, hypertension, arthritis, other inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, and cancer."

The site quoting the above report claims: "after 200 days in the feedlot grain-fed cattle have Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios that exceed 20 to one".

This is bad for our health. How bad? See the report: "The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases" by Simopoulos AP, Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2008 Jun;233(6):674-88 -

"A very high omega-6/omega-3 ratio, as is found in today's Western diets, promote the pathogenesis of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, whereas increased levels of omega-3 PUFA (a lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio), exert suppressive effects. In the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease, a ratio of 4/1 was associated with a 70% decrease in total mortality. A ratio of 2.5/1 reduced rectal cell proliferation in patients with colorectal cancer, whereas a ratio of 4/1 with the same amount of omega-3 PUFA had no effect. The lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio in women with breast cancer was associated with decreased risk. A ratio of 2-3/1 suppressed inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and a ratio of 5/1 had a beneficial effect on patients with asthma, whereas a ratio of 10/1 had adverse consequences."

(Cattle fed on grass have a lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio.)

Click here to open an example of the need to increase Omega 3 dietary intake and reduce the proportion of Omega 6 in our diets.

texas grass fedbeef omega 3 fatty acids
earth policy grain tonnes per hectare
algae biodiesel Dec2006

Click here to visit the Tallgrass Beef website for more information about the health benefits of grass-fed beef

(opens in a new window).

The Australian research organisation CSIRO discovers several species of algae that produce Omega 3 oils.

The use for this discovery that the CSIRO scientists decide to pursue:

- Copy the gene from algae that can produce 100 tonnes of Omega 3 oil per hectare a year, and

- Use the gene to create a genetically-modified grain crop that may be able to produce only 2-3 tonnes per hectare a year.

This seems a perverse and unintended consequence of intellectual property rights that are intended to provide a financial incentive for worthwhile research. The objective of intellectual property rights is NOT to promote the creation of genetically-modified plants and animals - for profit - by suppressing awareness of natural, and as in this case, far more productive sources of food that are essential to good health.

This may be a reason to develop a new incentive scheme that promotes research and commercial development of discoveries of naturally-occurring new food resources.

However, for now:

-A genetically-modified crop can be patented -

"The [genetically-modified] plants are expected to be available for commercial release by about 2015."

(CSIRO media release)

-A naturally-occurring algae can be grown freely by anyone, then dried and fed to cattle, etc. The only obstacle to overcome is the absence of any supplier, and the lack of detailed information for successful growth and harvesting.

Click here to see a copy of the report released September 30, 2009 by the CSIRO on this "breakthrough"?

csiro new Omega 3 diet source
GM Plants CSIRO 2005-11-28

The above diagram from a document available for download from a CSIRO web page: Omega-3 oils in grain.

The document is a two-page information sheet describing how the Food Futures Flagship has developed plants that produce DHA, a healthy omega-3 oil component normally only available from fish.

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Page Modified October 7, 2010