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Population Growth, Land and Water Limits and Climate Change Forcing a Radical Rethinking of Agriculture; GM Crops, Aquaculture, Drylands and Saline Agriculture

Population growth, limits to arable land and fresh water, and climate change have “profound implications” for the ability of agriculture to meet this century’s demands for food, feed, fiber, and fuel while reducing the environmental impact of their production.

Meeting these challenges will depend on the acceptance and use of contemporary molecular techniques, as well as the increasing development of farming systems that use saline water and integrate nutrient flows, according to a perspective piece by an international team of scientists from academia, the private sector, and government, published in the 12 February issue of the journal Science, which is focused on Food Security.

“There is a critical need to get beyond popular biases against the use of agricultural biotechnology and develop forward-looking regulatory frameworks based on scientific evidence.”
—Federoff et al.

The research team, led by Nina Federoff, science and technology adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, notes that the impacts of climate change on agriculture and human health are already apparent. They point to the 2003 heat wave in Europe, which caused just a 3.5°C rise in the average summer temperature, but killed 30,000 to 50,000 people. Gaining much less attention was the resulting 20% to 36% decrease in the yields of grains and fruit that summer.

But if the climate scientists are right, summers will be that hot on average by mid-century, and by 2090 much of the world will be experiencing summers hotter than the hottest summer now on record. The yields of our most important food, feed, and fiber crops decline precipitously at temperatures much above 30°C. Among other reasons, this is because photosynthesis has a temperature optimum in the range of 20° to 25°C for our major temperate crops, and plants develop faster as temperature increases, leaving less time to accumulate the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that constitute the bulk of fruits and grains.

Widespread adoption of more effective and sustainable agronomic practices can help buffer crops against warmer and drier environments, but it will be increasingly difficult to maintain, much less increase, yields of our current major crops as temperatures rise and drylands expand. Climate change will further affect agriculture as the sea level rises, submerging low-lying cropland, and as glaciers melt, causing river systems to experience shorter and more intense seasonal flows, as well as more flooding.

—Federoff et al.

The authors suggest that a serious reevaluation of the existing regulatory framework in the light of accumulated evidence and experience with genetically modified crops is needed. Such an assessment should encompass protein safety, gene stability, acute toxicity, composition, nutritional value, allergenicity, gene flow, and effects on non-target organisms. This would establish a foundation for reducing the complexity of the regulatory process without affecting the integrity of the safety assessment, they said.

A public facility within the USDA with the mission of conducting the requisite safety testing of GM crops developed in the public sector is also essential, they suggest.

However, it is not at all a foregone conclusion that our current crops can be pushed to perform as well as they do now at much higher temperatures and with much less water and other agricultural inputs. It will take new approaches, new methods, new technology—indeed, perhaps even new crops and new agricultural systems.

Aquaculture is part of the answer...Another part of the answer is in the scale-up of dryland and saline agriculture.

...The heart of new agricultural paradigms for a hotter and more populous world must be systems that close the loop of nutrient flows from microorganisms and plants to animals and back, powered and irrigated as much as possible by sunlight and seawater.

—Federoff et al.

This perspective piece was developed from the authors’ presentations during a September 2009 workshop titled “Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: What Will it Take?” which was held under the auspices of the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the US Secretary of State.


  • N. V. Fedoroff, D. S. Battisti, R. N. Beachy, P. J. M. Cooper, D. A. Fischhoff, C. N. Hodges, V. C. Knauf, D. Lobell, B. J. Mazur, D. Molden, M. P. Reynolds, P. C. Ronald, M. W. Rosegrant, P. A. Sanchez, A. Vonshak, and J.-K. Zhu (2010) Radically Rethinking Agriculture for the 21st Century. Science Vol. 327. no. 5967, pp. 833 - 834 doi: 10.1126/science.1186834



I fail to see how crop impacts of a heat wave can be informative of a rising temperature trend.

A heat wave is a short term unexpected event that farmers haven't been able to prepare for.

A rising temperature trend on a decadal scale is, by definition, something that farmers can prepare for.

This study seems to assume that farmers are either so stupid that they won't switch to crops that are better suited for warmer summers or that such crops don't exist.

Additionally, one might consider that there are rather large swathes of land in Canada and Russia that are currently unsuitable for any agriculture because of permafrost that could come into use.

The Goracle


But if the climate scientists are right...

LOL!!! OK, stop reading now. We all know that the "climate scientists" are paid by governments to come up with results "proving" human caused Global Warming® (since rebranded Climate Change® since rebranded CO2 Pollution®). These "climate scientists" have recently revealed that they will break the law in order to hide data from peers, will block papers from being peer reviewed, and will outright lie in order to "make their point."

I'm sorry but drastically higher taxes, massive growth in government bureaucracies, and extreme loss of freedom are not the answers to Earth's constantly changing climate.

Remember the below, startling, "science" revealed in the pages of Newsweek in 1975? Thirty five years later these two articles are taking the same track! Although one about the horrors of Global Warming®, the other about the horrors of Global Cooling. And the only solution is... wait for it... wait... LARGER government!

"Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies. The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality."

Science! LOL!!!



If the wealthy nations of this world won’t wake up and realize that it is our combined responsibility to mitigate the plight of the destitute in these disaster hit regions such as Haiti we may very well become the deserved receivers of their wrath. We can’t imagine a thousand Al-Qaida spin off groups but it is a real possibility when one realizes that the ignored acute poverty stricken will not just lie down and die as they shouldn’t! If we can’t rescue the worst hit regions as a test case we can’t begin to really make a difference in any area. Haiti is a test case that challenges our nature of reciting the good deed platitudes that nullify our minds by sucking in the talk but missing out on the follow through! Their and inversely now our crisis is truly a test bed opportunity to put in place the mechanics of the needed programs to first, rescue them and second, establish a sustainable living environment and finally bootstrap the infrastructure to prevent the return of the conditions that allows these geological emergencies to be so catastrophic to life. A house made of cement block can’t be the rebuild choice. There are real and affordable options if we look for them. Case in point is the new SIP [Structured Insulated Panel] organic product made cheaply from mycelium.
See >

Also by example of the other options to rescue a people over come by natural disaster, the house forming produce call Grancrete may offer some solutions.

But if we don’t really care to ACT we will deserve their reaction to our chosen ignorance!
See >

The Goracle


Robert, It's good to see that you made your post from Haiti! How is it going in Haiti? I'm glad that you walk the walk by being one of the wealthy, heading there to help the natural disaster victims in order to avoid their wrath.



As the global climate warms up, world population will have a tendency to grow much faster. Canada with new fertile lands could grow from 33 to 100++ million. USA's population could also trible to 1+ billion. Will we find ways to feed 18+ billion people and energy for 10 billion vehicles by next century? What is the maximum population that Earth could support? If we use Haiti as an example, (11 million on a very small piece of land) it could be between 20 and 30 billion.

One thing is almost sure, we could not all drive Hummers. We will have to find ways to reduce the energy used by our vehicles and to produce more food. That may mean going fully electric for all transportation means and major changes in the ways food is produced.

Henry Gibson

Simple calculations will show that there is not enough land area and fresh water to supply biomass sufficient for the liquid energy demands for the world; forget about the food needed as well. The oceans have already been over fished for food.

After traveling 93 million miles, solar energy is mostly too dilute to be used cost effectively for industrial energy no matter how much hits the earth. Please notice how many govenments finance their operations by extracting gold from the oceans even though there is a great deal of it.

Hyperion is developing a nuclear reactor small enough and cheap enough so that every factory could have one of its own for heat and electricity.

Potassium on the earth has always been radio-active, so all live things, including humans, have always been and will always be radioactive. Live cells have learned to survive small amounts of nuclear energy as many have learned to survive the toxic deadly chemical OXYGEN.

Several CANDU nuclear power stations can be built quickly in the Haiti area for all of the local islands and supported with a grid of undersea direct current cables. Eventually the US should use an electrical grid of buried highvoltage direct current cables. CANDU reactors do not need the heavy forged tanks required by other reactors that are in short supply, and they can be built quickly in large numbers.

France has proven the economic and environmental advantages of nuclear reactors. Eventually net energy fusion reactors will be developed, as there are already devices that use fusion to produce neutrons, but there is enough Uranium and Thorium on the earth and in the ocean to supply present and future energy needs until the sun blows up a few billion years from now. We may as well use the Uranium and Thorium because it is destroying itself.

CANDU reactors are like other reactors and nearly impervious to hurricanes and earthquakes because of their already heavy construction. Such reactors could built on US islands near Florida and the power sold throughout the Caribian.

The Rubbia Reactor, otherwise known as the Accelerator Driven Reactor, can use any kind of nuclear fuel, including thorium and can be built in small sizes, but the existing CANDU reactors with chemical reprocessing of fuels can already operate with only thorium and the Uranium produced from the thorium during the reaction. The stockpiles of, so called, transuranic wastes can be used mixed with thorium to initiate this operation that only needs thorium afterwards.

The use of thorium produces almost no transuranics and they can be consumed anyway by the reactor if just put back in. In fact, the way to get rid of all transuranic elements is just to put them back into reactors and get the energy out of them quickly instead of slowly. Plutonium is not produced in Thorium reactors in substantial quantities and is destroyed by the reaction as well.

The processing of thorium CANDU fuel elements only requires the removal of a substantial part of the fission products and no separations of uranium, plutonium or transuranics needs to be done. Such processing might even be done mostly by just heating the fuel to very high temperatures to vaporize the contaminants.

Conventional reprocessing in France and the UK is well done and useful in the face of high price inflation due to speculators in the uranium market.

The zirconium tubes used in fuel elements can be annealed, repaired and recycled. Automatic machinery and robots can do most of the work on the now highly radioactive parts. A recent article about replacement limbs for amputees in the National Geographic indicates how a very versatile robotic worker could be created if necessary. The present CANDU fuel elements can be delivered by taxi they are so low in radio-activity, very few trips a day would be required.

Heavy water costs a lot of money but it keeps its value, like gold, forever and only needs repurification at times. The cost of the Thorium in such a CANDU operation is less than a tenth of the price of the delivered electricity.

Peak oil can never be reached because oil can be made economically from recycled CO2 and water and nuclear energy. France has already begun such a project that produces hydrogen for fuels from suplus power.

A total electric Hummer, with an emergency tiny range extender of course, can be built with ZEBRA batteries with enough electric range to get Governors to and from work and a hundred miles beyond. A school bus has been running on ZEBRA batteries in California for many years.

Haiti and the rest of the area islands can use electrical energy. ..HG..


Why is it that so many studies seem to take population growth for granted and then go on to figure out how we should deal with that? Here's an idea: let's use contraception. Many of the other problems will take care of themselves or at least not be as bad. Fewer people = less need for food, water, energy and pretty much everything else, all of which are in limited supply.

Baby Fishmouth

To the Goracle,

Get back to work. Those burgers aren't going to flip themselves.


Peter, an excellent suggestion and of course the base of all green fanaticism. Trouble is the big old institutions like a certain religion and wing that opposes contraception.

BTW, the new brand message from MSM alarmists is "anti-science." Look for it in climate PR from here out.

Aaron Turpen

Once again, another daily post that has nothing to do with cars, transportation, or anything automotive. From Green C A R Congress.

FOCUS, people. FOCUS.


This may be an aside and late in the comments, but when water is mentioned I think about Dan Kamen's 'slingshot' water purification device:

A billion people are said to be without clean water, but after five years this device doesn't even appear to be mass produced - why?!


G-R-E-E-Ncarcongress seems to invite 'green' comments..


If we want biofuels from crop waste the whole crop picture becomes important. If we go farther and use biofuel crops like switchgrass it becomes even more important.



Contraception is very effective. In the early 1960's thru mid 1990's our birth rate went down from 3.05 to 1.25 per couple and we had the import people from all continents to try to compensate.

In the mid 1990's our politicians needed more votes and our teaching staff needed more children to keep their jobs etc. A natality boosting program was voted in with up to $7000 bonus per newborn + very generous family allowances + $5/day (day care) services + 9 to 12 months paid leave for ladies and 6 weeks for the genitors + increased tax credits for every child etc etc.

The birth rate has gone up to almost 2 per couple. Many recent arrivals with one wife and three or four productive maids (or female guests) have as many as 20 children and dont realy have to work anymore. Unwed mothers recieve more allowances (+ social benefits if they stay home) than married ladies.

Yes, we have gone a very long way to fight the over benefits of contraception.

How long can we afford the current extremely expensive family programs?
The day care services are now at a low $7/day and costing over $42/day per young child. Pregnancy leaves cost $Bilion a year and is very work desruptive. Training replacement personnel is very expensive. Our per capita productivity is going down with birth rate going up etc.

The Goracle


Oh, look!... Another, almost daily, Global Warming fraud revelation (not posted by Green Car Congress because its blasphemy). This time professor Phil Jones (of the UEA scandal thanks to the whistleblower) is admitting that there is no Global Warming. Is he lying again? Is he a denier? Is he stoopid?

An excerpt from the article: Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995:

Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now – suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.

And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.



Ha ha ha! You really have to watch where you get your info from. The Daily Mail is a British daily tabloid newspaper, it's on a par with your National Enquirer.


HarveyD: What country are you talking about?


Interesting climate videos:


Ah yes I knew about those but was waiting for a good time to use them.

BTW have you seen this guy's stuff?


Some conclusions from the interview with Phil Jones by BBC's Roger Harrabin:

# Neither the rate nor magnitude of recent warming is exceptional.
# There was no significant warming from 1998-2009. According to the IPCC we should have seen a global temperature increase of at least 0.2°C per decade.
# The IPCC models may have overestimated the climate sensitivity for greenhouse gases, underestimated natural variability, or both.
# This also suggests that there is a systematic upward bias in the impacts estimates based on these models just from this factor alone.
# The logic behind attribution of current warming to well-mixed man-made greenhouse gases is faulty.
# The science is not settled, however unsettling that might be.
# There is a tendency in the IPCC reports to leave out inconvenient findings, especially in the part(s) most likely to be read by policy makers.


Cherrypicked conclusions from cherrypicked questions.

fred schumacher

I see no farmers commented, so allow me, a retired farmer, to provide a little perspective.

The reason crop yields went down in Europe during the heat wave is that most grain crops grown there are C3 photosynthesis pathway plants, which respond positively to CO2 increase but negatively to heat. We see this all the time in North Dakota, where I farmed. The inverse relationship between yield and heat is well known.

A second effect of increased heat is increased evaporation, reducing the amount of water available to the plants. This is also well known. It takes 30 inches of rainfall in Texas to equal 20 inches in North Dakota. The hotter it is, the more rain you need just to stay in place.

C4 photosynthesis pathway plants, like corn, sorghum, switchgrass, or miscanthus do not respond to increased CO2 levels but do respond positively to heat, up to a point. Too much heat and they will also shut down.

Talking of farming in farther north regions now outside the farming belt is easier said than done. Those northern areas generally have thin, acidic soils. It's no one to one replacement. I farmed on deep prairie soils in North Dakota while living 300 miles away in boreal northern Minnesota. From a soils standpoint, there's no comparison whatsoever.

What hasn't been recognized in discussion of the production potential of the world's agriculture is that it is primarily based on an assumption that annual plant agriculture will continue unabated. There is another option.

Research on cellulosic biofuel could allow us to unlock the food value present in the vegetative parts of perennial grasses and legumes. In trials at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, perennial Miscanthus giganteus produced four times as much biomass as corn with no fertilizer or irrigation water input.

Note that the vegetative part of a grass is composed of 3/4ths cellulose, which is a long chain polymer of glucose, the sugar our bodies reduce food down to for use at the cellular level, and 1/4th lignin, a natural resin. Cows can access this food directly, humans can't. But if cellulose is unlocked for biofuel production, it is also unlocked for human food production.

The Goracle


ai_vin said: Ha ha ha! You really have to watch where you get your info from. The Daily Mail is a British daily tabloid newspaper, it's on a par with your National Enquirer.

ai_vin, thank you for that "scientific" (measured by climate science standards) analysis of professor Jones' statements. This is a great example of your typical Globalwarmist reaction: name calling/change the subject/tell everyone how much you hate whomever published the information that is blasphemous to your Globalwarmist faith. Then continue on, mindlessly believing...




G, are you as crazy as you seem to be or do you just have fun pretending absolutely totally insane?


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