Predictions of mass starvation might have been averted by Norman Borlaug’s work tinkering with the genetic design of wheat – but worries about overpopulation continue.
The Population Bomb, published by Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich in 1968, predicted that populations would grow more quickly than food supplies, causing mass starvation. Ehrlich was wrong: food supplies kept pace. And that’s largely due to the years Norman Borlaug spent growing different strains of wheat in Mexico. The 'green revolution' vastly increased yields of wheat, corn and rice. Yet, as Tim Harford describes, worries about overpopulation continue. The world’s population is still growing, and food yields are now increasing more slowly – partly due to environmental problems the green revolution itself made worse. Will new technologies come to the rescue?
Our Daily Bread: The Essential Norman Borlaug, Noel Vietmeyer, Bracing Books, 2011
The Population Bomb, Dr Paul R Ehrlich, Ballantine Books, New York, 1968
The Wizard and the Prophet: Two groundbreaking scientists and their conflicting visions of the future of our planet, Charles C. Mann, Picador, 2018
An essay on the principle of population, as it affects the future improvement of society with remarks on the speculations of Mr Godwin, M. Condorcet, and other writers, Thomas Malthus, London, 1798