Some Important Issues Determining the Future of Agricultural Production

Horn, Péter

Keywords: human evolution, animal protein consumption, competitiveness of livestock sectors, climate change, heat stress, diversity of GMOs, Q15, Q54

The study summarises the biological factors that evolved during the evolution of Homo sapiens and which underwent profound changes (such as the digestive system, brain size and dramatically-increased energy demand) to explain the correlations that occur between per capita daily meat consumption and the population’s disposable income. Based on authoritative literary sources, the author shows that about two thirds of countries do not have an adequate supply of animal protein, and the populations of poor countries are severely malnourished. Data show that the animal protein supply of the Hungarian population reached the desired daily average of 52 grammes at the end of the 1980s. It is an unfortunate fact that at present the animal protein supply of the Hungarian population only reaches about 75 percent of the desirable amount. It is clear that in the case of middle and lower income countries, it would be highly desirable to increase the consumption of animal products, significantly expanding the production of livestock sectors. Already among the livestock sectors, and even more so in the future, competition is emerging for available feed resources.
There are already significant differences in efficiency between the various sectors in terms of the complexity of unitary animal product (e.g. forage area, water and emissions from different environments). Based on comprehensive studies abroad and my own calculations, it can be established that in animal species where genetic progress was rapid in productive capacity (e.g. milk production, broiler chicken fattening) and yields of fodder crops increased considerably, the resources per unit of product and the emissions to the environment also decreased dramatically.
The author describes the change over time in the US milk production sector and Hungarian broiler chicken production as examples for the phenomenon. There are several examples of climate change that can mitigate the negative effects of the current warming stage in animal husbandry, mentioning the potential benefits of closed holding systems.
Based on the author’s own experiments, he shows the benefits of light, quasi-reflective hair colour in beef cattle to mitigate heat stress. In chicken breeding, the reduction of the amount of feathers genetically permits the formation of types more resistant to heat stress. Based on many prognoses, food production should increase by 60 to 70 percent over the next thirty years. Pessimists do not consider this to be possible, but the author has a more optimistic view, taking into account the land that has not yet been utilised, where both soil and precipitation conditions would allow efficient plant cultivation. By using complex technologies and modern know-how, the integrated application of the advanced technology and know-how today could significantly increase the efficiency of crop production and animal husbandry in many countries, while reducing the environmental footprint. Inarguably, substantial additional investments are needed, including human resources. In most species of plants and animals, there are still significant genetic resources that create the potential for further development; this is supported by both domestic and foreign examples. There is hardly any doubt that the widespread use of advanced biotechnology methods can be a means of unimaginable development. Regulations allowing the marketing and cultivation of plant and animal types produced through the most recent procedures are needed.
Future agriculture and the development of a number of border areas will have a significant impact on the worldwide programme which was announced at the Davos World Economic Forum on 23 January 2018 and launched by prestigious scientific institutes and foundations at the initiative of Juan Carlos Castilla-Rubio, a Peruvian billionaire. The Earth Biogenome Project aims to map the entire gene pool of 1.5 million living species in ten years. The launchers of the programme emphasised that this is extremely broad international cooperation, the intellectual, material and infrastructural strength of which will make a significant contribution to the Earth’s genetic biodiversity. It will have a profound impact on all sectors of life-related production, and even on human society. The study describes the details of the programme.

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