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By Staff | Nov 11, 2011

When the world population zoomed past 7 billion souls last week, it would appear to be an odd time to criticize China’s one child policy as being unsustainable, but, what the heck?

It will prove to be China’s economic fiasco. Just like Baby Boomers produced a bull market in the U.S., China’s bulge of workers will become a bust after 2050 when the demographics of age catch up to them in China. China’s one child policy is morally reprehensible.

It will distort the balance between generations and bite them hard. That doesn’t mean that India’s unhindered population growth won’t create problems, too, as its population surges past China’s.

Scientists believe the world population will peak out somewhere between 9 to 10 billion people, post 2050. The population growth rate peaked in the 1960s near 2 percent. In developed countries, the population growth rate has been seen to align with the replacement rate when population will eventually stop growing.

About half the world’s population lives in country’s where the growth rate has stabilized the population.

Nine billion people can’t use resources at the same rate as the current 7 billion. Space, water and commodity resources will have to be utilized more productively. The Economist Magazine said, “The fall in fertility is already advanced in most of the world. Over 80 percent of humanity lives in countries where the fertility rate is either below three and falling, or already two or less. This is thanks not to government limits, but to modernization and individuals’ desire for small families.”

Demographics drive the economy. “Because people have fairly typical spending patterns through their lifecycles – schooling, marriage, first car purchase, first home purchase, upgrade home purchase, maximum earnings period, maximum retirement savings and retirement, demographic anomalies such as baby booms and busts – exert a predictable influence on the economy over a long time period.

An important trend since the industrial revolution is the unprecedented increase in life expectancy, due primarily to more children living to adulthood.

The fertility rate also declined. As a result, the dependency ratio has undergone changes not fully reflected in the number itself, because children no longer work and people live long past their productive years.”

The World Bank said that food productivity has to increase by 70 percent by 2050 to feed 9 billion. I was fortunate last week to hear the man many consider to be the “Father of Seed Technology,” Dr. Robb Fraley, explain how agriculture is going to achieve that objective.

While some additional land will be converted for agricultural purposes, most of the increase in food production will occur from raising productivity on existing acres. Urbanization will cancel out some of the new farmland conversion.

Fraley, who is Monsanto’s chief technology officer, believes that agriculture can meet the population’s challenge.

Productivity will come from a tri-fecta of combining plant breeding, biotechnology and improved agronomic practices.

Biotechnlogy is quickly moving from the floppy disc stage through hard drives onto I-PADs. The rate of gene identification is producing a renaissance in genetic crop improvement that is just getting started. They are sampling tens of millions of chips of global corn germplasm annually, drawing from an immensely expanded gene pool.

Where the trait mix is now up to eight in corn, 20 will soon be the norm of hybrids.

Fraley believes the U.S. trendline yield for corn will achieve 200 bushels per acre by 2020 and 300 bpa by 2030. Soybean yields will be 80 bpa by 2030.

Fraley said that we will move past the current 35,000 plant population and 30-inch rows By 2030 the average corn plant population will be 45,000 per acre in 20-inch or or twin rows with 15 to 20 traits per hybrid – traits that will better utilize nitrogen and water.

Biotechnology will move on to other crops. Monsanto is coming with triple-stacked sweet corn. The barrier to GMO adoption in fruit and vegetables is not technological, but political. He said the technology is sustainable.

I believe that it is, too. There are organic means to provide fertility and pest resistance on a limited scale, but the rejection of GMOs is not organic. It is cultural and political. Genes are organic. The trendline yields of organic crop production and biotech seed is going to gap apart, as biotech seed yield potential surges while organic yields essentially stand still.

Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, argued that how plant breeding was accomplished was irrelevant.

Organic producers, or extreme technophobics, like Europe, who reject modern plant breeding, biotechnology and agronomic practice improvement, are going to be left in the dust of time as ag productivity surges, resulting from the use of advanced science to meet global population growth needs.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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