Six Billion and Counting

Population and Food Security in the 21st Century

Posted: 19 July 2002

Author: Klaus M. Leisinger, Karin M. Schmitt, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch
2002, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC, $14.95 pb

In 1999 global population surpassed 6 billion people, and this number rises by between 70-80 million people each year. This title examines the consequences of continuing population growth for the world's natural resource systems and for global food security.

The authors assess the progress the world has made in controlling population growth and point to the areas where future difficulties will lie. They describe the effects of rapid population growth on social and economic conditions and on natural resources, and consider what population growth will mean for the food security of poor countries. The authors also address how cultural norms and the roles of women and children in traditional societies affect birth rates.

The book shows that neither the population pessimists, who predict a catastrophic exhaustion of natural resources, nor the population optimists, who foresee technological solutions for all of the problems raised by population growth, offer the most useful approach to this problem. Instead, Leisinger and his co-authors argue that new technologies mitigating the harmful effects of rapid population growth can give the world valuable time to take the necessary steps needed to reduce population growth rates to sustainable levels.