KSU panel discusses global food challenges

Feeding 7 billion people around the world is difficult enough, but in the next 30 to 40 years the world’s population is expected to grow by another 2 billion. The challenges posed by that were the topic of discussion during a panel of experts Monday at Kansas State University.

“(The world’s farmers) will have to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we’ve produced in the history of our planet,” approximately 10,000 years of human existence, said John Floros, dean of the Kansas State University College of Agriculture.

Producing more food is more complex than just putting more seeds in the ground or raising more livestock. Floros noted that it takes many systems, including pre- and post-harvest safety, food science, animal health, processing, nutrition, transportation, and more.

“All of these systems are becoming very strained when you look at world resources and the world population,” said Randy Phebus, a food science professor. “We’re going to have to become more efficient and much more focused on how we meet these challenges in the future.”

Worldwide, one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted between the farm and the dinner table, said Dick Maier, head of K-State’s Department of Grain Science and project leader for U.S. Agency for International Development’s Innovation Lab for Post-Harvest Loss.

“That’s a huge amount,” Maier said. “I think the message we want to get across is that there’s something each one of us can do with regard to reducing post-harvest loss of food or waste in our homes, and in our own ways of thinking about food as a valuable resource like energy and water.”

In the United States and other developed nations, 56 percent of food loss is at the consumer’s level, such as throwing food away in a cafeteria or at home. In developing countries, food loss happens earlier in the chain, such as during production, or in post-harvest handling and storage.

Last year, K-State won three grants totalling $27 million to build facilities and advance science in post-harvest food loss, sorghum and millet development, and wheat genetics.

 

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