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Presentation

2nd Revision

Introduction

 
FAQ
Why is Lester R. Brown wrong in predicting that China cannot feed itself?
In 1995 Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute predicted that China's grain import needs would likely increase to between 200 and 369 million tons by 2030 (Brown, 1995). While, of course, no one knows the future, it is highly unlikely that Brown's predictions will come true. As several experts have demonstrated in great detail, Brown used incorrect data, made unlikely assumptions, and did not take into account the technical and economic potential for improving China's domestic food supply (see Alexandratos, 1996, 1997; World Bank 1997, Crook / Colby, 1996). A more detailed analysis of Browns arguments is available in the "In-depth"-section of this application.
Brown under-estimated China's cultivated land area. He only briefly mentioned the serious under-reporting of cultivated land in official Chinese statistics, but did not take into account the implications.
Since Brown's arguments and calculations are based on a fictional cultivated land area, which is some 30 to 40 percent smaller than the true area, his yield estimates for China are too high.
Brown did not adequately take into account China's land reserves.
He did not consider the possibilities for an expansion of multi-cropping.
Brown overestimated arable land losses and the decline in agricultural productivity due to pollution. The major cause of arable land loss is flooding - not pollution. 
He did not consider existing technical possibilities, such as better flood control, for improving disaster prevention in China's agriculture. 
Brown ignores that China is quickly moving into high-tech agriculture and livestock production, which will most likely trigger a boost in productivity.
Brown over-estimates China's grain import demand. With realistic projections China might have a grain deficit of between 40 to 50 million tons in 2020, which is well within the historical range of fluctuations in the volume of the world grain market.
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Revision 2.0 (First revision published in 1999)  - Copyright 2011 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. (First revision: Copyright 1999 by IIASA.)