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Population Boom Poses Interconnected Challenges of Energy, Food, Water

Released: 3/26/2013 11:45 PM EDT
Embargo expired: 4/8/2013 2:15 PM EDT
Source Newsroom: American Chemical Society (ACS)

EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE: Monday, April 8, 2013, 2:15 p.m. Eastern Time

Note to journalists: Please report that this research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Apr. 8, 2013 - NEW ORLEANS, April 8, 2013 — Mention great challenges in feeding a soaring world population, and thoughts turn to providing a bare subsistence diet for poverty-stricken people in developing countries. But an expert speaking here today at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, described a parallel and often-overlooked challenge.

“The global population will rise from 7 billion today to almost 9 billion people by 2040,” Ganesh Kishore, Ph.D., said at the meeting, which continues through Thursday. “Providing enough food to prevent starvation and famine certainly will be a daunting problem. But we also have to meet the rising expectations of huge numbers of people who will be moving up into the middle class. We will have a New York City-sized population added to the middle class every second month. Their purchasing power is projected to be more than $60 trillion by 2040. Most of this growth will be in Asia. The expanding middle class will demand food that doesn’t just fill the belly, but food that’s appetizing, safe and nourishing, convenient to prepare and available in unlimited quantities at reasonable prices. Producing food for a middle class that will number more than 5 billion within 30 years will strain existing technology for clean water, sustainable energy and other resources.”

Kishore spoke at a symposium, “The Interconnected World of Energy, Food and Water,” that focused on approaches to prepare for the population boom. Kishore is a co-organizer of the symposium, along with John Finley, Ph.D., of Louisiana State University and Hessy Taft, Ph.D., of St. John’s University.

“We want to foster greater awareness among scientists, the public and policy-makers about the interconnections between these three challenges,” said Kishore. “Water, food and energy must be understood together — it’s not just one or the other, so we have speakers addressing all of these topics. And the reason for this interconnection is that we need water to produce both energy and food — whether it is about harvesting fossil-fuel energy, producing biobased renewable energy or producing food, we need fresh water! In addition, we are competing with other demands for fresh water. It is not just about developing technology — we have to move the technology from the bench to the real world so that solutions see the light of day, which the industry speakers in the session can address. Regulatory policies have to keep pace with technology development, not just in places where the technology is developed but where the technology is deployed, and that requires science-based risk assessment capability and the creation of consumer confidence in the process.”

He described how the addition of one billion people every 12-13 years itself poses challenges that require innovations, rather than simply scaling up existing technologies. And he said that opportunities go hand-in-hand with the challenges.

They include using plant biotechnology and tools of synthetic biology to expand the food supply and providing new sources of energy, developing more efficient ways to convert sunlight into chemical energy and applying information technology to the production of food and chemical energy more efficiently. Kishore cited specific examples of progress being made in those areas. As CEO of the Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund, Kishore and colleagues are promoting some of these strategies by investing in companies working in these areas. One company in which they invest, for instance, improves agricultural crops by enhancing plant breeding and genetic technologies. Another is developing ways to transform waste gases into fuels.

Abstracts of other symposium presentations appear below.

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Note to journalists: Please report that this research was presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

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Ganesh Kishore, Ph.D.
Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund
San Francisco, Calif. 94111
Phone: 415-373-2053


Enhancing food and energy production: Issues, opportunities, and threats
Ganesh Murthy Kishore1, CEO, PhD, MLSCF, Number One, Embarcadero Center, Suite 2700, San Francisco, CA, 94111, United States, 4153732053, 14155915401,

Human population reached 7 billion last year and expected to grow to 9 billion over the next thirty years. This rate of addition of one billion people in twelve to thirteen years is both an enormous opportunity as well as a challenge. Innovation is essential if these opportunities are to be addressed and societal needs will not be met by simply scaling up current practices. The presentation will focus on the theme of convergence of technologies to deploy innovation in food and feedstock production, greening of the planet and provide specific examples of progress made towards developing such technologies. Specifically the theme of biology as both a product of chemical as well information technology will be embellished. Investment and deployment of innovation require transparent and predictable regulatory practices and some of the specific issues that need to be addressed in this regard will be highlighted.

Protein networks from an atlas of proteotypes
Steve Briggs1, Professor, University of California at San Diego, Section of Cell and Developmental Biology, 6108 Natural Science Building, MC 0380, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, 92093, United States, (858) 534-5372,

The specific state of the proteome in a given cell, tissue, or organism is known as the proteotype. The proteotype integrates constraints imposed by the genotype, the environment, and by developmental history (e.g., a leaf cell has a different proteotype than a root cell with the same genotype in the same environment). The proteotype directly determines phenotype since all molecules are made by and regulated by proteins. Thus, a complete description of the proteotype should define a phenotype at the molecular level. We have constructed an Atlas of Proteotypes that currently includes 162,777 peptides from 41,553 proteins in 65 different tissues and stages of development. In addition, we have identified and measured more than 30,000 phosphopeptides from these same samples. The 65 resultant proteotypes are revealing thousands of unanticipated regulatory relationships. The relationships between mRNA levels and protein levels are fascinating; they indicate that protein levels from some genes are regulated by transcription but that most protein levels are under post-transcriptional control. The proteotypes explain and expand upon known tissue-specific phenotypes including oil accumulation in the embryo and starch accumulation in the endosperm. Protein networks such as enzyme-substrate relationships between protein kinases and phosphoproteins are emerging from analyses of the proteotypes. The data are also being used for proteogenomics in which the peptide sequences are mapped back to the genomic DNA sequence to identify new protein coding genes and to correct existing gene models.

Food, feed, and fuel from crops under global atmospheric change: Could we have it all in 2030?
Stephen Long1, Professor, University of Illinois, Departments of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences, 134 Institute for Genomic Biology, 1206 W. Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL, 61801, United States, (217) 333-2487,

Global demand for our four major food and feed crops is beginning to out-strip supply, at a time when year-on-year yield per unit area increases are stagnating and while emerging global Climate-Change'>climate change further threatens supply. Not only is the rapidly developing economy of China drawing in more imports of these crops, but the EU 27 is now a net importer of 10% of these primary food stuffs, putting yet greater pressure on world supply. Global atmospheric and Climate-Change'>climate change is likely to place further pressure on supply. It will be shown that the methods used in the Green Revolution to increase genetic yield potential are almost at their biological limits, and radically new methods particularly in improving photosynthetic efficiency are critical if we are to see further increases in yield potential. The new opportunities here will be explained, and the necessity of basing these on synthetic and systems approaches explained. Recent progress in both a theoretical engineering framework and proof of concept improvement in crop productivity will be presented. The developing risk of demand outstripping supply comes at a time when we are also looking to the land to provide more sustainable sources of energy, including biofuels from crops. This is exemplified by Germany and the USA which are the world's largest producers of biodiesel and bio-ethanol respectively, but at the cost of land that could be used for food and feed production. In the context of possible shortages the continued use of land suited to food and feed production into 2030 for bioenergy will be neither socially acceptable nor economically viable. It will be argued that the use of food crops, which have been developed to meet nutritional needs, for bioenergy is environmentally flawed, sub-optimal with respect to net greenhouse gas (GHGe) and other ecosystem services. It will be shown that, using Miscanthus, canes, agave and poplars as examples, there are many opportunities, some partially realized, to achieve very substantial quantities of bioenergy on non-agricultural land, globally. Systems based on such crops have positive greenhouse gas benefits and are without unsustainable impacts on food production. There is sufficient environmental resource and biotechnological understanding to achieve the goals of sustainable and adequate food and fuel production. But realization will depend on new policies based on a holistic view of these demands on land and other resources and a greater acceptance of biotechnology. A shift from the disaggregated and inconsistent policy development based on single issues and interests, which have characterised this arena on both sides of the Atlantic in recent years, to a holistic framework will be critical.

Innovation in agriculture: Biotechnology, genetics, genomics, and beyond
Stephen R Padgette1, Dr., Monsanto Company, Corporate Strategy Group, 800 North Lindbergh Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63167, United States, 314-694-2874,

In order to meet the growing world demand for food, feed and fuel, continued technology innovation in agriculture will be required. Genetic improvement of crop plants in the past two decades primarily focused on the implementation of DNA marker technologies in plant breeding programs and on the first generation of crop biotechnology traits for improved weed and insect control. Future generations of pest control traits are being developed through the application of new technologies including protein engineering and RNAi to offer growers products with additional modes of action and ever-improving efficacy against pests. In addition, significant research efforts in crop biotechnology now focus on enhancements to complex traits such as intrinsic yield potential, nutrient utilization and abiotic stress mitigation. Increasing yields while at the same time significantly decreasing the key resources (water, land and energy) required to produce each unit of output is one of the most important challenges facing agriculture. Leveraging advanced enabling technologies such as high-throughput genome sequencing, functional genomics, and systems biology in both plant breeding and biotechnology disciplines will be required to help deliver the next generation of traits in agricultural crops. In addition, new opportunities in biological control of pests are emerging, which could provide additional sustainable solutions for crop production. Finally, the availability of high definition field mapping coupled with more predictive genotypic responses to environmental conditions, soil types, planting conditions and inputs will enable enhanced opportunities to harvest increasing proportions of yield potential for crops worldwide.

Water and food security
Theodore C Hsiao1, Professor, University of California at Davis, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, One Shields Avenue, 133 Veihmeyer Hall, Davis, CA, 95616, United States, 530-752-0691,

The continuous increase in human population and the innate desire for better living standard place relentless demand on food production. Production is maximized or optimized by having good water and mineral nutrient supplies coupled with good agronomical practices and well adapted crop cultivars. To assess food security for future scenarios, it is crucial to define possible potential productions for different climate and soil regimes. Although opinions differ on the upper limit of potential food productivity, there is no question that water supply is becoming more and more a critical factor, especially in the arid and semi-arid regions of the world, as well as in the temperate regions. Productivity of a crop is closely linked to the amount of water it consumes. The physical and physiological bases for this tight link are elaborated on. Experimental data will be presented to validate a simple quantitatively predictive relationship derived from gas transport equations. This relationship specifies the upper limit of production per unit of water consumed by a crop. Recently the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of United Nations developed a crop production model, named AquaCrop, partly based on this relationship. The model is water driven and has been validated for different climate regions for some crop species, and is suitable for the estimation of the potential yields of crops for a given climate and soil regimes. Comparisons between potential yields and reported actual yields (yield gap) will be made for some areas to assess to what extent food production can be further increased to meet the rising demands. The discussion will also include other factors affecting productivity, particularly fertilizer input, irrigation management, and Climate-Change'>climate change and elevation of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Food and energy from the land: Turning necessity into opportunity
Lee R Lynd1, Professor, Dartmouth, Thayer School of Engineering, 14 Engineering Drive, Hanover, NH, 03755, United States, (603) 646-2231,

New analysis will be presented supporting the proposition that bioenergy is likely to be an obligatory rather than discretionary part of a sustainable energy supply system. The underlying reasons for the broad disparity in assessments of the feasibility and desirability of large-scale bioenergy production will be considered. Thereafter, features of the Global Sustainable Bioenergy (GSB) project will be described, and the status of GSB tasks will summarized. These tasks address development of geographically-distributed pasture and energy crop productivity models, the interaction between soil fertility, food security, and bioenergy, and scenario analyses addressing "making room" for bioenergy as well as systemic approaches to food and bioenergy production that positively and synergistically impact multiple human needs. Informed by recent results of the GSB project, potential approaches to gracefully reconcile very large-scale bioenergy production with other important priorities will be discussed with a particular emphasis on the potential for bioenergy production to positively impact food security.

Sustaining water resources in agriculture
Hessy Taft1, Adjunct Professor, St. John's University, 65 Central Park West, New York, New York, 10023, United States, 212-874-2235,

Exponential population growth in a world with uneven distribution of global freshwater will sharply increase water demands. Rising global temperatures exacerbate violent storms and prolonged drought. Salinization occurs at coastal deltas from rising sea levels and in groundwater from over pumping. The World Bank estimates that 25-30% freshwater is lost, costing the global economy $14billion annually. This paper highlights novel technologies developed to augment our finite freshwater systems and presents potential remediation to relieve agricultural stress. Improving water management in agriculture rests on implementing sustainable irrigation techniques and developing crop modifications that help tolerate water stress. Innovative techniques permit desalination that preserves membranes and is less energy intensive. Recycling highly purified sewage water is powerful tool for replenishing groundwater. Although growing crops for biofuels is incompatible with global demands for freshwater and food, recent studies on cellulosic biomass and microalgae cultivation hold promise as economically viable alternative energy sources.

Outlook for energy: A view to 2040
Tim Barckholtz1, 1545 Route 22 East, Annandale, NJ, 08801, United States, 908-730-2848,

Ensuring reliable and affordable energy supplies to support human progress, safely and with minimum impact on the environment, is a challenge facing companies, governments, and societies around the world. The scale and nature of this challenge is visible in ExxonMobil's Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040, our long-term forecast of global energy supply and demand trends.

What do we see over the next 30 years? As the Outlook details, the answer often varies significantly by region, reflecting diverse economic and demographic trends as well as the evolution of technology and government policies. Everywhere though, we see energy being used more efficiently and energy supplies continuing to diversify as new technologies and sources emerge.

The Outlook for Energy covers energy-demand sectors (transportation, power generation, industrial and residential) as well as energy-supply sources (oil, gas, coal, nuclear, and renewables). The talk will summarize the key conclusions of the Outlook.

Nexus between food, water, and energy
Sonny Ramaswamy1, USDA, 305-A Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC20250, United States, 202-720-4423,

The Earth's population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, and we will need to meet human needs while minimally impacting the environment. The “9 Billion Problem” has implications for the way we support research, education, and outreach at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The science, policies, and regulations must align with the global challenges, including food security, hunger, food safety, nutrition, childhood obesity, sustainable energy, water, and Climate-Change'>climate change.

The nexus between food, water, energy and health is critical to how we deploy resources to address the same. The increase in population will contribute to escalating scarcity of land, water, energy, and food. As we develop solutions to provide food and energy, we impact our water supply. Additionally, with increasing wealth, consumers in developing countries are consuming greater quantities of protein, particularly animal protein, production of which requires high quality feed grains requiring energy and water for their production. The food animal industry is also competing with the energy industry for meeting its need of grain and biomass. And, yet, as we've seen with the recent droughts, without adequate water, both food and energy production are impacted.

Going forward NIFA will invest in enabling sound science and policies that address these complex issues, and investments in ensuring food security and sustainable bioenergy and water will be a significant part of our portfolio. NIFA will continue to work with the best and brightest scientists at academic institutions and in private and non-governmental sectors to find innovative solutions to these challenges. By making the right investments in science at the right time, NIFA enables the scientific community to make great discoveries that can be translated into innovations beneficial to lives of the American people, and for that matter, globally.

Tomorrow's oil from yesterday's wells: Enhanced oil recovery as a bridge to the future of renewable energy
Thomas Ishoey1, CTO, PhD, 4315 South Drive, Houston, TX, 77053, United States , 713-471-1129,

A reliable and predictable energy supply is a requirement for the continued development of our society. Current infrastructure is based on energy supplied from extracted hydrocarbons, and there is no indication of this changing significantly within the foreseeable future. Therefore, the extraction and consumption of available hydrocarbon resources is extremely important to establishing a secure energy supply.

Traditional production of crude oil typically leaves 60-70% of discovered oil behind, making mature oil fields a prime target for the application of novel technologies aiming to improve oil recovery.

This presentation will review technologies for enhanced oil recovery with a focus on a biotechnology-based approach targeting reservoir microbiology. When successfully implemented, this technology offers a viable option to recover trapped oil with minimal new footprint or investment.


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