Subtitled The Race to Feed a Crowded World, The End of Plenty offers case studies from across the globe to highlight the issues facing agricultural scientists and farmers as they struggle to feed a growing population.
Joel K Bourne examines the contribution made to agriculture by innovations including the green revolution, genetically modified foods and organic growing. He outlines both the positive and the negative aspects of each of these, for example as well as outlining how the green revolution increased food production, he also highlights how that revolution damaged wildlfe through overuse of pesticides.
Bourne criss-crosses the world to bring the reader case studies from farms across the world, including visiting some of the thousand Chinese pig farms that produce 10,000 hogs each every year and investigating how Ukraine's agricultural sector has fared since the fall of Communism and the radioactive fallout of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Having lived in Malawi, I was particularly interested in his investigations into that country's agricultural performance. I was initially impressed to read of the excellent performance of many farms in Malawi, particularly those in the so-called Millenium Villages (villages where huge investment has been pumped in to help the area meet Millenium Development Goals). However further reading reveals that the overall performance in the country hasn't been so good with the Malawian governmental estimates of agricultural production not being borne out by research by independent agencies.
The book also investigates issues such as population growth and the increasing trend towards using farm land and farm crops to produce biofuels, both of which impact on our future ability to feed ourselves.
(For anyone who is nervous about the population question, it is very interesting to note that:
'if all the world's unwanted pregnancies were prevented - meaning all women on the planet had access to family planning services and free contraceptives and were able to have only the number of children they wanted - the average global fertility rate would drop below the replacement rate of 2.1 almost overnight. This would lead to a global population of .....3 billion fewer to feed than the current median UN projections in 2100.')
This is an excellent, accessible well researched book for anyone interested in the future of food.
The End of Plenty by Joel K Bourne published by Scribe.
Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of this book to review.