NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Protect Wildlands Through High Yield Farming and Forestry

May 13, 2002

Norm Borlaug, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, former Sen. George McGovern and Per Pinstrup-Andersen, the winner of the 2001 World Food Prize, are among the signers of a new declaration supporting protection of wildlands with high-yield farming and forestry.

Borlaug notes the higher crop yields of the Green Revolution saved perhaps a billion people from starving in the 1960s. And food security has helped bring Third World fertility rates 80 percent of the way to stability. But now:

  • If the world were still getting the low crop and livestock yields of 1950, at least half of today's 16 million square miles of global forest would already have been plowed under.
  • By 2050, to feed a larger and more prosperous world population, we must grow nearly three times as much food on the farmland we are already using, in order to save the planet's wildlands.
  • Mexico, for example, is losing nearly 3 million acres of forest per year to the expansion of peasant farms.

African farmers use traditional seeds and the organic farming systems that some call "sustainable."

  • However, low-yield farming is only sustainable for people with high death rates, and thanks to better medical care, more babies are surviving.
  • The traditional bush fallow periods have been shortened from 15 or 20 years to as little as two or three -- which means crop yields are declining, soil nutrients are depleted, and still more land must be planted every year to feed the people.

"Africa desperately needs the simple, effective high-yield farming systems that have made the First World's food supply safe and secure," says Borloug, "and kept its wild species from extinction: chemical fertilizers, improved seeds bred for local conditions, and integrated pest management (with pesticides)."

Source: Norman Borlaug, "We Can Feed the World. Here's How." Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2002.


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