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There has been a substantial increase in food production over the last 50 years, but it has been accompanied by a narrowing in the diversity of cultivated crops. New research shows that diversifying crop production can make food supplies more nutritious, reduce resource demand and greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance climate resilience without reducing calorie production or requiring more land.
The Green Revolution—or Third Agricultural Revolution—entailed a set of research technology transfer initiatives introduced between 1950 and the late 1960s. This markedly increased agricultural production across the globe, and particularly in the developing world, and promoted the use of high-yielding seed varieties, irrigation, fertilizers, and machinery, while emphasizing maximizing food calorie production, often at the expense of nutritional and environmental considerations. Since then, the diversity of cultivated crops has narrowed considerably, with many producers opting to shift away from more nutritious cereals to high-yielding crops like rice. This has in turn led to a triple burden of malnutrition, in which one in nine people in the world are undernourished, one in eight adults are obese, and one in five people are affected by some kind of micronutrient deficiency. According to the authors of a new study, strategies to enhance the sustainability of food systems require the quantification and assessment of tradeoffs and benefits across multiple dimensions.
Paper - Proceedings - National - Academy - Sciences
In their paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers from IIASA, and several institutions across the US and India, quantitatively assessed the outcomes of alternative production decisions across multiple objectives using India's rice dominated monsoon cereal production as an example, as India was one of the major beneficiaries of Green Revolution technologies.
Using a series of optimizations to maximize nutrient production (i.e., protein and iron), minimize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and resource use (i.e., water and energy), or maximize resilience to...
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