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Robert Thompson, visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University

Robert Thompson
Visiting Scholar, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

At the global level, the question is: Can the world’s farmers feed the world’s larger population better than today at reasonable cost without destroying the environment? The biggest question mark in the world’s food supply and demand balance, in my estimation, is to what extent sub-Saharan Africa is able to develop its agriculture. There’s no excuse for Africa to be a net importer of food today; they should be a net exporter.

If we double the number of acres of land in production, there would be massive destruction of forests and with those forests, we’d lose wildlife habitat, we’d lose biodiversity, we’d reduce carbon sequestration, capacity to forest, accelerating global warming.This leads me to the inescapable conclusion that the only environmentally sustainable alternative is do something close to doubling the average productivity of the good fertile soils that are already in production worldwide. With 10 percent additional land that might be brought into production, mostly in South America [and] sub-Saharan Africa.

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