Malthus is still wrong

we can feed a world of 9-10 billion, but only by reducing food demand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In 1798, Thomas Robert Malthus published 'An essay on the principle of population' in which he concluded that: 'The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.' Over the following century he was criticised for underestimating the potential for scientific and technological innovation to provide positive change. Since then, he has been proved wrong, with a number of papers published during the past few decades pointing out why he has been proved wrong so many times. In the present paper, I briefly review the main changes in food production in the past that have allowed us to continue to meet ever growing demand for food, and I examine the possibility of these same innovations delivering food security in the future. On the basis of recent studies, I conclude that technological innovation can no longer be relied upon to prove Malthus wrong as we strive to feed 9-10 billion people by 2050. Unless we are prepared to accept a wide range of significant, undesirable environmental consequences, technology alone cannot provide food security in 2050. Food demand, particularly the demand for livestock products, will need to be managed if we are to continue to prove Malthus wrong into the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-190
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the Nutrition Society
Volume74
Issue number3
Early online date16 Oct 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

Fingerprint

Inventions
Food Supply
Food
Premature Mortality
Livestock
Population
Technology

Keywords

  • agriculture
  • dietary change
  • food demand
  • food production
  • food security

Cite this

Malthus is still wrong : we can feed a world of 9-10 billion, but only by reducing food demand. / Smith, Pete.

In: Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, Vol. 74, No. 3, 08.2015, p. 187-190.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{4c086463a2364ef081d230907b57ea41,
title = "Malthus is still wrong: we can feed a world of 9-10 billion, but only by reducing food demand",
abstract = "In 1798, Thomas Robert Malthus published 'An essay on the principle of population' in which he concluded that: 'The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.' Over the following century he was criticised for underestimating the potential for scientific and technological innovation to provide positive change. Since then, he has been proved wrong, with a number of papers published during the past few decades pointing out why he has been proved wrong so many times. In the present paper, I briefly review the main changes in food production in the past that have allowed us to continue to meet ever growing demand for food, and I examine the possibility of these same innovations delivering food security in the future. On the basis of recent studies, I conclude that technological innovation can no longer be relied upon to prove Malthus wrong as we strive to feed 9-10 billion people by 2050. Unless we are prepared to accept a wide range of significant, undesirable environmental consequences, technology alone cannot provide food security in 2050. Food demand, particularly the demand for livestock products, will need to be managed if we are to continue to prove Malthus wrong into the future.",
keywords = "agriculture, dietary change, food demand, food production, food security",
author = "Pete Smith",
note = "Acknowledgements The paper was prepared for The Nutrition Society Annual Meeting: ‘Carbohydrates in Health: Friends or Foes’ held at the University of Glasgow in July 2014. This work contributes to the Scottish Food Security Alliance-Crops, the University of Aberdeen’s Environment and Food Security Theme, and to Scotland’s ClimateXChange. Financial Support This paper was prepared for the Nutrition Society Annual Meeting 2014 and travel and subsistence support was provided by the Nutrition Society.",
year = "2015",
month = "8",
doi = "10.1017/S0029665114001517",
language = "English",
volume = "74",
pages = "187--190",
journal = "Proceedings of the Nutrition Society",
issn = "0029-6651",
publisher = "Cambridge Univ. Press.",
number = "3",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Malthus is still wrong

T2 - we can feed a world of 9-10 billion, but only by reducing food demand

AU - Smith, Pete

N1 - Acknowledgements The paper was prepared for The Nutrition Society Annual Meeting: ‘Carbohydrates in Health: Friends or Foes’ held at the University of Glasgow in July 2014. This work contributes to the Scottish Food Security Alliance-Crops, the University of Aberdeen’s Environment and Food Security Theme, and to Scotland’s ClimateXChange. Financial Support This paper was prepared for the Nutrition Society Annual Meeting 2014 and travel and subsistence support was provided by the Nutrition Society.

PY - 2015/8

Y1 - 2015/8

N2 - In 1798, Thomas Robert Malthus published 'An essay on the principle of population' in which he concluded that: 'The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.' Over the following century he was criticised for underestimating the potential for scientific and technological innovation to provide positive change. Since then, he has been proved wrong, with a number of papers published during the past few decades pointing out why he has been proved wrong so many times. In the present paper, I briefly review the main changes in food production in the past that have allowed us to continue to meet ever growing demand for food, and I examine the possibility of these same innovations delivering food security in the future. On the basis of recent studies, I conclude that technological innovation can no longer be relied upon to prove Malthus wrong as we strive to feed 9-10 billion people by 2050. Unless we are prepared to accept a wide range of significant, undesirable environmental consequences, technology alone cannot provide food security in 2050. Food demand, particularly the demand for livestock products, will need to be managed if we are to continue to prove Malthus wrong into the future.

AB - In 1798, Thomas Robert Malthus published 'An essay on the principle of population' in which he concluded that: 'The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.' Over the following century he was criticised for underestimating the potential for scientific and technological innovation to provide positive change. Since then, he has been proved wrong, with a number of papers published during the past few decades pointing out why he has been proved wrong so many times. In the present paper, I briefly review the main changes in food production in the past that have allowed us to continue to meet ever growing demand for food, and I examine the possibility of these same innovations delivering food security in the future. On the basis of recent studies, I conclude that technological innovation can no longer be relied upon to prove Malthus wrong as we strive to feed 9-10 billion people by 2050. Unless we are prepared to accept a wide range of significant, undesirable environmental consequences, technology alone cannot provide food security in 2050. Food demand, particularly the demand for livestock products, will need to be managed if we are to continue to prove Malthus wrong into the future.

KW - agriculture

KW - dietary change

KW - food demand

KW - food production

KW - food security

U2 - 10.1017/S0029665114001517

DO - 10.1017/S0029665114001517

M3 - Article

VL - 74

SP - 187

EP - 190

JO - Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

JF - Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

SN - 0029-6651

IS - 3

ER -