The New Food Revolution

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The New Food Revolution

The world is on the threshold of technological breakthroughs and improvements in agriculture, and these could not come at a better time.  Since the creation of jobs depends, to a large degree, on creating consumers with a higher standard of living, providing food in quantities and varieties suited to these emerging consumers will be vital.  

This food revolution will, on its own, continue to provide new categories of jobs, but the traditional farm worker will not be a category that will grow.  On the contrary, it will shrink due to automation and economies of scale.  But job gains in related fields will more than make up for this loss.  These include the preparation and transport of food, the production of agribusiness capital goods such as farm machinery, irrigation systems, and food processing plants, plus packaging and distribution systems.  Already, over 70 percent of the cost of food is added after the food leaves the farm, and this proportion is sure to rise.

Although new agriculture-related jobs will contribute to global job growth, the greater impact will be on how the food revolution will literally and figuratively feed job growth in all sectors.

A phenomenon that is both caused by agricultural productivity and reinforces the need for that productivity is the migration of people from farms to the city.  In 2007, we reached the crucial point at which more people lived in cities than in rural areas.  The model we’ve seen in the United States, Japan, and Europe of incredibly greater amounts of food being produced by far fewer people will now become a global model.

Another recent milestone was reached when the global population topped 7 billion people.

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Between now and 2060, the world’s cumulative consumption of food will exceed twice the food that has been consumed since the beginning of agriculture 10,000 years ago.  It is estimated that to feed the growing population by 2050, at least 70 percent more food will be needed each year than is produced today.1  In developing countries, many experts believe this goal will not be met since current investments in agriculture are woefully inadequate. 

In 2008, during the financial crisis, the world got a glimpse of what will likely happen if food supplies don’t keep pace.  When the price of food commodities soared, hundreds of millions of poor people, who already spend up to 80 percent of their incomes on food, were drastically affected.  Thirty countries experienced food riots, and two governments fell. 

However, there is actually reason for optimism today because breakthroughs in infotech, biotech, and nanotech are already converging on solutions that promise to revolutionize agriculture...

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