Science & Technology in Action

7th Edition

Future Food Security

Teagasc

The human race has never known total food security and threats exist which could seriously damage our ability to produce sufficient food in the future. These threats include the explosive growth in the world’s population and the depreciation of our environment that can produce conditions that are inhospitable to food production from land and sea.
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Contains the full lesson along with a supporting toolkit, including teachers’ notes.

Lesson excerpt

Why is Food Security Important?
Food security ensures that people have adequate access to quality food, sufficient to permit a healthy life. Curtailed access means at worst famine. On a lesser scale it leads to poor health. An adaptive response in all organisms to hunger is stunted growth. This can lead to early death because body systems have not developed fully. Civilisation suffers as people are unfit to contribute to the community and resources are spent in caring; impaired cognitive development has consequences for society as a whole.

The Context
Earth has never known total food security. The green revolutionof the 20th century was a new dawn. Artificial fertilisers made land more productive. Farmers did not have to rely on the nitrogen and other cycles to replenish the ground after harvest. Leaving land fallow was no longer necessary.

Extensive new areas were opened up to intensive agricultureby clearance of hedgerows and forests, drainage of marshes and irrigation of arid areas. Improvements in transport and infrastructure enabled the easy movement of food worldwide.Herbicides, pesticides and medicine protected crops and animals from predation and disease. Nevertheless, development has been uneven.

High technology often comes at a price that developing countries cannot afford. Exports of low cost food to poorer nations have often put local farmers and their sustainable methods out of business. In this way dangerous dependencies have been created.

In modern times, corporations have bought food speculatively and, in times of shortage, sold it at high prices. The resultant insecurity has had consequences ranging from poor nutrition to starvation.

Quiz questions

  1. Climate change may open some places to agriculture. true
  2. In Vietnam, farmers are being encouraged to switch from rice to aquaculture because of increased flood frequencies. true
  3. In biblical times, drought forced Jacob and the Canaanites to migrate to Egypt. true
  4. Louis Pasteur pioneered artificial nitrogen fixation. false
  5. A typical Mediterranean diet requires more fertiliser on the land than a typical Irish diet. false
  6. The rate of artificial nitrogen fixation exceeds that of natural nitrogen fixation. true
  7. Excess environmental nitrogen has been associated with loss of biodiversity. true
  8. Mobile phones can be of assistance to farmers in poorer countries. true
  9. Much food is lost because of poor storage facilities. true
  10. Malnutrition reduces farm productivity. true