|Findiing sustainable ways to feed a growing population will be a challenge.|
There are now more than 7 billion people on Earth, a number that is expected to soar over the next dozen years to 8 billion.
How will we feed so many people? Already, more than a billion people go hungry every day. With population growth accelerating, the challenge of finding sustainable ways to feed the world is compounded by global climate change, shifting geo-politics, rising energy demands and limits on natural resources.
Global Food Systems Forum webcast
"It's one of the big questions of our time: How do we sustainably feed 8 billion people?" said Barbara Allen-Diaz, vice president of the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "UC is uniquely positioned to bring people together across a wide range of disciplines in search of common ground and science-based solutions."
On April 9, ANR will convene some of the world's leading experts — farmers, researchers, policymakers, economists, environmentalists and geopolitical experts — at a daylong forum focused on addressing how to sustainably feed 8 billion people by 2025.
Keynote speakers at the Global Food Systems Forum include Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and a leader on climate justice for the world's poor, and Wes Jackson, founder and president of the Land Institute.
The event will be webcast, and is open to everyone via online registration. People have registered from around the world — including Australia, Kenya, Thailand and Venezuela, to name just a few places. In fact, Antarctica is the only contintent not represented among webcast attendees.
"Our goal is to start a national and international conversation," Allen-Diaz said. "There are so many interconnected issues and none of them will be addressed overnight. It's going to take collaboration and dialogue to get where we need to go. We see an important role for UC in furthering that conversation."
ANR already has launched a website and blog featuring commentary and insight from forum participants on topics as divergent as whether women are disproportionately affected by food insecurity to the debate about whether organic foods are better than genetically modified ones.
Michael Specter, who writes about global issues for the New Yorker, will moderate a panel focusing on the political, ethical, economic, environmental and technical challenges facing food systems from a global perspective.
In a 2010 TED talk, he framed the environmental challenge succinctly:
"We've used our imagination to thoroughly trash the globe. Potable water, arable land, rainforests, oil, gas — they are all going away. And they're going away soon. And unless we can innovate our way out of this mess, we're going away, too. The question is, can we do that? And I think we can."
UC is especially suited to the search for solutions: Its discoveries in crop management, pest control and agricultural machinery have helped farmers around the world boost productivity. UC researchers also discovered how to leach salts from Central Valley soils, a development that transformed California into the most productive farming region in the world.
Journalist Mark Arax, who has written extensively about California, will moderate a panel focusing on the state's role as an innovator in addressing the looming food challenge. A range of UC and non-UC people will participate.
"For almost 100 years, ANR has used the power of scientific research to improve agricultural production and protect our natural resources," Allen-Diaz said. "This forum will help us continue in that leadership role and prepare for the uncertainties that lie ahead."
To learn more about the UC Global Food Systems Forum and to sign up to view the webcast, visit http://food2025.ucanr.edu. You may also join the ongoing conversation on Twitter by following #Food2025.