The growing world population will cause a “perfect storm” of food, energy and water shortages by 2030, the UK government chief scientist has warned.
By 2030 the demand for resources will create a crisis with dire consequences, Prof John Beddington said. Demand for food and energy will jump 50% by 2030 and for fresh water by 30%, as the population tops 8.3 billion, he told a conference in London.
Climate change will exacerbate matters in unpredictable ways, he added.
The United Nations Environment Programme predicts widespread water shortages across Africa, Europe and Asia by 2025. The amount of fresh water available per head of the population is expected to decline sharply in that time.
Use GM crops
Prof Beddington said the concern now – when prices have dropped once again – was that the issues would slip back down the domestic and international agenda. Improving agricultural productivity globally was one way to tackle the problem, he added.
At present, 30-40% of all crops are lost due to pest and disease before they are harvested. Professor Beddington said: “We have to address that. We need more disease-resistant and pest-resistant plants and better practices, better harvesting procedures.
“Genetically-modified food could also be part of the solution. We need plants that are resistant to drought and salinity – a mixture of genetic modification and conventional plant breeding.
New EC science adviser
Prof Beddington said the problem could not be tackled in isolation. He wants policy-makers in the European Commission to receive the same high level of scientific advice as the new US president, Barack Obama. One solution would be to create a new post of chief science adviser to the European Commission, he suggested.