HORTICULTURE is at the heart of fixing world hunger, according to Julian Cribb.
The former CSIRO scientist and author of such books as Poisoned Planet and The Coming Famine, shared his thoughts at the 29th International Horticultural Congress (IHC) in Brisbane this morning.
Some 4000 delegates have come together at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition centre from more than 100 countries in the largest horticulture gathering in Australia this year.
Mr Cribb delivered the opening address on the topic of global food security with some stirring words for the audience.
“Food is one of the most creative acts we perform as humans, and horticulture is at the heart of that creativity,” he said.
“How well we do it, will define the human future now and for all time. Never has world cuisine been so diverse or so far short of its true potential.”
He painted a grim picture of the human reliance on resource-heavy agriculture and the consumer dependence on a grain-based diet.
“Mega cities” would become the future trend, according to Mr Cribb, which cannot feed themselves but rely on a “river of trucks” bringing food in on a daily basis.
He added that ground water was being mined at a faster rate than it is being replenished
But he countered his dire warnings by saying there were enormous opportunities for horticulture to capitalise and correct the global food imbalance.
“The city itself is poised to change. Green cities alive with vegetation, fresh food, birds and insects will replace the polluted, soulless, concrete and glass urbanscapes of today,” he said.
Giant floating greenhouses and translucent vertical urban farms were just two ideas touted by Mr Cribb.
He said by 2050, urban horticulture and farming could provide half the world’s food.
“They will ensure a highly diverse, local food supply that never fails,” Mr Cribb said.
“This will bring immense relief to the stress now imposed on the world’s soils, water, biodiversity and damaged landscapes.
“For the first time, humanity will be able to feed itself without plundering the natural world.”
Mr Cribb also outlined his desire to see a year devoted to educating students around the world on the importance of food, through all curricular subjects.
“Teaching foods is acceptable to all cultures, creeds, races and nations. The means already exist to share these ideas universally,” he said.
“It is already starting to happen but we must make it go faster.”
The international speaker said not to rule out the idea of lab-based products such as artificial meat, suggesting the public once viewed artificial fabrics the same way.
“Sixty years ago, nobody wore synthetic clothing. Today almost everyone does,” he said.
Mr Cribb’s comments were supported by Shenggen Fan, director, International Food Policy Research Institute, USA, who said he’d like to see world hunger ended by 2025.
Mr Fan said horticulture was important for food security and nutrition, and that the world needed to move away from high consumption of rice, maize and wheat products.
“We need goals that are precise, ambitious but not unreachable,” Mr Fan said.
He also said it made economic sense to alleviate poverty for all countries involved.
The International Horticultural Congress runs until Friday.
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