In spite of their efficiency, large-scale, intensive methods of livestock and poultry production are often criticized as environmentally damaging. Concerns are growing about the effects of waste and pollution from these plants, as well as management practices, infectious disease control, biosecurity, animal welfare, and food safety. Public and private veterinary services in Southeast Asia are thus under great pressure to adjust their practices to meet the new challenges that have resulted from rapid urban growth, booming economies, and swift consolidation of livestock and poultry industries.
The Role of Science
“Since the way to feed the world is not to bring more land under cultivation, but to increase yields, science is crucial.” (Economist, 2008). That food riots were uncommon during the past four decades is largely attributable to the Green Revolution (Borlaug, 2002) which increased world grain production in existing cropping areas by some 250%, saving millions of people from hunger and starvation in Asia. The Green Revolution has been criticized for its heavy reliance on fertilizers, but the increased production spared forests and wildlife habitat, illustrating that responsibly-managed, high-yield farming can be one of the most effective ways of saving human lives while allowing wild species to survive (Green et al., 2005). In India, for example, the Green Revolution’s high-yield farming methods are estimated to have prevented 100 million acres of virgin land, an area about the size of California, from being converted into farmland.
The Green Revolution is still important, but its impact has been dampened by rising fuel and fertilizer prices and inefficient irrigation practices; with the Green Revolution’s decline, an era of cheap food is coming to an end. A new and more ecologically-informed, energy-constrained “sustainability revolution” is necessary. But that kind of change will require resources and a wholesale realignment of priorities and funding in agricultural research, including in the United States, where investment has steadily withered for over 40 years (Nature, 2010). The FAO estimates that global agricultural investments should increase by 50% by 2050 if there is to be enough food to feed 9.2 billion people. Of this, the FAO suggested that an annual infusion of $13 billion would be needed to increase livestock production (FAO, 2009). Thus, if population growth and the burgeoning cities of the developing world are to be sustained in rapidly warming climates, research and technical development is urgently needed, especially in tropical and sub-tropical agriculture. With the exceptions of China and Brazil where there have been remarkable increases in productivity, the issue of food security has received limited support from world funding agencies. Failure to fund this research will almost certainly precipitate worldwide increases in food insecurity, hunger, instability, and extremism.
Embrapa (the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), is the world’s leading tropical agricultural research organization today and the creator of a new