The future of agriculture has long looked bright.
I recall futurist and economist Lowell Catlett spoke in Yorkton years ago with a presentation he titled ‘The Future Is So Bright You’ll Have to Wear Shades’. It was an impassioned talk which left an indelible impression on this writer.
I was enthralled by the ideas Catlett spoke of, in particular with what he saw as the future associated with genetic modification.
The idea of GM has been something many in the world balk at, but hearing ideas from Catlett including some still more fiction that science probably struck a chord for me because of my love of speculative fiction. Still the idea of goats being modified to have high-value cheetah skin has stuck with me.
Now of course GM hasn’t evolved that far -- yet.
But listening to Robert Saik CEO with the Agri-Trend group of companies speak to the Yorkton Rotary Club Farmer Appreciation Night, the importance of GM is still to be fully realized.
Saik is definitely a man who sees a farm future which is blazingly bright. In fact he looks at most things in the world and finds the silver lining.
It’s hard to argue with his rationale. Saik points to some rather compelling statistics including the longer life expectancy of almost everyone in the world. That factor alone speaks to humanity doing something right.
When you add in, as Saik did, the sheer volume of knowledge being created daily in our world you tend to hold out hope the cracks which are showing in the world can be fixed. The problem may simply be the will and to focus that knowledge to effect the changes we need.
Global climate change is a fact, whether you believe it’s a natural evolution of things, or caused by humanity. Either way, some of what humanity does has its impact, but at present the world can’t even get on side with regards to what needs to be done, and when it needs to be done?
The United States, which is a leader in the world, has balked at the cost associated with truly addressing greenhouse gas emissions. A stance Canada has been sadly eager to mimic. Until countries such as the U.S. and China take the leap change will not occur.
Of course even if the U.S. finally found a conscience, their economy is in such bad shape, affording the massive change needed would be a massive challenge.
Back to farming directly, there are limited regions of the world capable of producing enough grain to export, the Canadian Prairies being a leader amongst those. As population grows, so does food demand, which will challenge farmers to grow production to meet those needs.
Precision farming, allowing precise applications of nutrients and crop protection products, coupled with GM hold the hope of meeting increased production needs.
But precision farming, while offering in crop savings does come with an implementation cost, which somewhere along the way the consumer needs to pay. In North America and Europe that might be all right, although shaky U.S. and European economies suggest short term concerns too, but much of the world struggles to afford food.
Some way of equalizing wealth is something hardly anyone talks about, although the rich continue to get richer and the poor are left even further behind.
Living longer and having access to a growing volume of knowledge is great, but humanity has to work harder to address the hard issues ahead, or the good times hungry mouths could mean for farming may never be realized.
Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.