According to the Oxford Advanced Learners' English dictionary, sustainability means "keeping an effort going continuously, the ability to last out and keep from falling". Sustainability in food production can therefore be defined as the ability of food systems to keep production and distribution going continuously without any marked interruption. It implies the ability to sustain growth of food production to meet the demand for food in the future. Although some experts are confident that a future world of eight or ten billion people will be able to feed itself, others share grave concerns about the future sustainability of current farming practices - especially in poor, food deficit countries with growing populations.
There are three worlds when it comes to agricultural production: the First World, the Second World and the Third World. The First World - North America, Europe, and Australia - have sufficient cropland to meet most of their food needs and efficient agricultural production systems enabling them to produce more food from the same amount of land.
These countries share some common characteristics: they have reached a demographic transition to lower fertility rates, they are net food exporters, they are probably capable of expanding food production beyond current levels, and they are moving, however slowly, towards more sustainable agricultural production systems.
The Second World is a mixed bag. It includes land-short Japan and Singapore, two of the world's richest economies, along with rapidly developing countries such as China and Indonesia in Asia, Peru and Chile in Latin America and Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States in the Middle East. These countries, diverse as they are, share one common denominator: they cannot grow enough food to feed their populations, but have the financial resources to make up the shortfall through imports. All are struggling...