9 billion by 2050

These numbers have been drilled into my head. They’ve been mentioned at every agriculture conference I have attended for the past few years. If you work in the ag industry you’ll probably know what I’m referring to when I say these numbers. If not, I’ll fill you in. The global population is expected to reach nine billion people by the year 2050. And the big ag question is: how do we feed nine billion people? We in the agriculture industry continue to spend a lot of time talking about the need to feed a growing world population. But are people hearing what we’re saying?

Unfortunately, when we as an ag industry say that we need to feed the growing global population, the rest of the world hears something different.

We say: We need to feed the world.

They hear: You want to produce more to sell to the world.

Most people think farmers just want to produce more so they can sell more and make more money. Is this true? Yes AND No. Today’s farmers are running sophisticated businesses and just like any other business, they have to be profitable. Of course farmers want to make money. Why shouldn’t they? Other people want to make money in their work. But I believe that most farmers also recognize the unique position that they’re in. They play a crucial role in feeding the world. What a huge responsibility. After all, no farmers, no food. So yes, our farmers want to produce more so they can sell more BUT they also want to help feed the growing global population.

So this leads me to the important lesson I learned at a recent ag conference I attended:

It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.

What do you think? Please comment below.


6 thoughts on “9 billion by 2050

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  1. Two things come to mind on this issue: One, waste reduction needs to be countered into the solution. The statistics on how much food is wasted in North America and elsewhere is mind numbing. Two, we need to ensure the Canadian sector is strong. Transfer of vast quantities of Canadian farm land to foreign interests may work for those involved in the short term but I feel we need to be mindful of our food sovereignty in the long term.

    1. Good points, Helena. I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about food waste in North America. We currently waste way too much food. I think this is also connected to portion size in restaurants. Whenever I’m in the U.S. I can’t help but notice that the portion sizes in most restaurants are huge, which means more waste if people don’t finish their food and also leads to obesity. Thanks for reading!

  2. That number is actually overwhelming – how can we feed that many people considering the perception of the advancements in agriculture (i.e. GM food)? In my mind it comes down to education. It truly believes that we need to educate the consumers, educate our governments and educate the industry. In the ever expanding world, we need to all work together. We need to conserve and protect our natural resources. We need to work with international governments to accept the research done on advancements in agriculture. We have a long way to go, but I believe it is doable. With the change in federal agriculture funding, farmers, industry and producer groups need to educate our consumers. You’re right “It’s not what you say, it’s what they hear.”

    Great meeting you this weekend I learnt so much at CFWF!

    1. Monika, I agree–in principle. I think we need to be careful here. “Educating the consumer” comes off as if they (and we are all consumers) know nothing. They may not know the things we would like them to however we all have an interest. “Education” needs to be a two-way street. We need to know what their interest is and open dialogue about it. Establish common values and “talk”. It can’t be “us” against “them”.

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