The US, China And The Race To Prevent A Food Crisis

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China cow farmer

By Markus23~commonswiki

China recently put an end to the one-child policy and replaced it with a new set of fertility rules allowing some parent to have two children. Though the Chinese population may have exploded in the past, today the country faces a demographic cliff, with far more old people than young. If the country wants to gain superpower status, it’s going to have to increase the number of people of working age or suffer long-term decline.

But this new population drive is going to put more pressure on the world’s food supply. Up until now, analysts had assumed that the one-child policy would stay in place. But if the Chinese population is allowed to boom once more, then the country could hit 2 billion people by the end of the century – all of whom need to be fed. In short, China is stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, it needs a growing population to prosecute its ambitious global plans, but on the other, it needs the food to feed all those extra people. Chinese rice paddies serviced by elderly gentlemen simply aren’t going to give it the food it needs.

The country, therefore, is doing what it does best: using both the heavy hand of government and turning to technology. Much of that technology is coming from the US. Right now, the US is a global leader in the cheap production of meat. The country has gotten the process down to a tee, and currently, has the highest protein consumption per capita per day in the world. That’s all because of its richly integrated industry, as explained by sites like In the US, the food industry is a well-oiled machine, driven by both technology and integration, pretty much the opposite of the situation in China.

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The problem for China is that the land available for agriculture is declining. Estimates suggest that the expansion of cities and real estate has reduced the amount of land available to farmers in the country by 6.4 percent between 1998 and 2007. Given that the migration of rural Chinese into urban cities is far from over, this reduction in space is likely to continue.

China also has a serious pollution problem. Around 20 percent of China’s arable land is contaminated, thanks to dumping by the Communist government.

According to China’s original agricultural industry was based on the objectives of the government. The industry was effectively ordered to produce a certain amount of grain, without anybody actually investigating whether there were better methods of doing so, or whether consumers even wanted grain. Now the country is making the shift to technical production methods borrowed from the US. Even Chinese consumers are becoming more like those in Western countries, increasingly concerned about where their food is coming from and willing to pay more for safety.

If China is to avert a food crisis, it’ll have to borrow methods from the US and stop relying on its traditional industry. Technology prevented a food crisis in the 20th century, and we need it again in the 21st.

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Student @ Advanced Digital Sciences Center, Singapore. Travelled to 30+ countries, passion for basketball.