Half a century ago, we developed a strain of wheat that’s able to survive both droughts and near-monsoon conditions. It was created by a man named Norman Borlaug. And when it looked like humanity was approaching a disaster of unparalleled proportions, Borlaug’s wheat stepped in and allowed us to alter our course. With it, we prevented a global famine and fed the world.
Fast forward a few decades, and we discovered a way of keeping our fruits and vegetables at peak ripeness nearly twice as long. By developing an imperceptible layer of plant material that can be applied to thicken the peel, Apeel Sciences slowed the rate that water’s lost and lowered the rate that oxygen enters. This dramatically reduced the rate of deterioration and spoilage. In so doing, we decreased food waste and lessened food scarcity.
And just a few short years ago, we created an “impossible burger” that’s made of vegetables but looks and tastes just like real beef. Since animal agriculture occupies almost half the land on Earth and consumes a quarter of our freshwater, this impossible burger is helping us save the planet.
But unfortunately, not all of our changes have been beneficial, and our positive impact hasn’t been enough.
The IPCC notes that the effect of climate change on crop production is already evident in many regions of the world , and over one-third of our greenhouse gas emissions come from our agricultural practices. And as the world’s population increases, and our food demands grow, so will our agriculturally based carbon emissions.
This is a dramatic problem, and if we are to persist as a species, we need to adapt our agricultural practices. What’s more, these adaptations will need to be able to feed a growing population without further depleting our reserves of soil and water.
Of course, it’s not just our climate that’s changing, so are consumers’ expectations of quality, transparency, and their understandings of social responsibility.
Recently, over 1,000 protesters were arrested over the course of just ten days during London’s Extinction Rebellion. The climate change protesters tied themselves together and blocked roads, demanding that the government do more to combat global warming. Around the world, hundreds of thousands of students are skipping classes demanding the same.
To this end, it's important to remember that we aren’t at the mercy of our technologies or political processes. We have the power to create the future we want.
Earlier this year, more than 30 speakers convened at Boma New Zealand’s Grow summit. Hundreds of farmers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and government officials attended to participate in workshops and discuss how we can adapt our agricultural industries to become more sustainable, collaborative, and profitable.
This is an important conversation — one that all our lives depend on. You can read some of the event coverage and learn how you can take action in the links and video below.