University of California

Comprehensive studies are needed: Food security, biodiversity threatened by population growth


Jerry R. Gillespie

Author Affiliations

J.R. Gillespie is Executive Director, Joint Institute for Food Safety Research, U.S. Departmetn of Agriculture/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. From 1966 to 1985, he served on the UC Davis faculty in the Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, until moving to Kansas State University to head the Departmetn of Clinical Sciences and the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. He began his current post June 2000.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 54(5):47-53. DOI:10.3733/ca.v054n05p47. September 2000.

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Major challenges confront agriculture and the rural environment as we begin the 21st century: providing for the nutritional needs of a growing human population, and sustaining natural resources for food production and biodiversity. Expanding the land area used for food production accelerates the loss of both animal and plant species, which, in turn, diminishes the genetic diversity available to increase food production. Over the last two centuries, nearly every continent has experienced a colossal loss of animal and plant species due to human intrusions. These losses are accelerating. Beyond the issue of providing adequate food are concerns that continued destruction of tropical forests — and species that survive only in these environments — will contribute to undesirable climatic changes, further complicating agricultural production and biodiversity. Extinction of tropical and other species reduces the world's genetic pool, including potential sources for greater food production and new medicines to improve animal and human health. Competing interests in California for land, water and capital could force agriculture out of California and into areas where the economy and culture are more favorable for food production. Can we assemble the necessary data to make critical decisions about the food systems before irreparable changes preclude reclaiming adequate resources for food production? Large, comprehensive studies are needed of defined agricultural areas, such as the Central Valley. Such studies would be multidisciplinary, long-term and expensive.


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Gillespie J. 2000. Comprehensive studies are needed: Food security, biodiversity threatened by population growth. Hilgardia 54(5):47-53. DOI:10.3733/ca.v054n05p47
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