Feeding the World

Feeding the World

A Challenge for the Twenty-First Century

By Vaclav Smil

A realistic yet encouraging look at how society can change in ways that will allow us to feed an expanding global population.





A realistic yet encouraging look at how society can change in ways that will allow us to feed an expanding global population.

This book addresses the question of how we can best feed the ten billion or so people who will likely inhabit the Earth by the middle of the twenty-first century. He asks whether human ingenuity can produce enough food to support healthy and vigorous lives for all these people without irreparably damaging the integrity of the biosphere.

What makes this book different from other books on the world food situation is its consideration of the complete food cycle, from agriculture to post-harvest losses and processing to eating and discarding. Taking a scientific approach, Smil espouses neither the catastrophic view that widespread starvation is imminent nor the cornucopian view that welcomes large population increases as the source of endless human inventiveness. He shows how we can make more effective use of current resources and suggests that if we increase farming efficiency, reduce waste, and transform our diets, future needs may not be as great as we anticipate.

Smil's message is that the prospects may not be as bright as we would like, but the outlook is hardly disheartening. Although inaction, late action, or misplaced emphasis may bring future troubles, we have the tools to steer a more efficient course. There are no insurmountable biophysical reasons we cannot feed humanity in the decades to come while easing the burden that modern agriculture puts on the biosphere.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262194327 390 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262692717 390 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • An extremely important and well-done book, produced by one of the few people in the world with the global and interdisciplinary professional breadth to write it.

    Dennis T. Avery

    Center for Global Food Issues, Hudson Institute

  • Rich in facts, balanced in its analysis, and well-written, Smil's book is awelcome relief from the doomsday literature that has dominated the field forfar too long.

    Gerhard K. Heilig

    Senior Research Scholar, International Institute forApplied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria

  • This work is based on the best available empirical evidence, and it presents, in my opinion, a balanced and science-based assessment of the future world food and environment situation. The topic addressed is extremely important for current and future generations. Much of the existing literature is ideologically biased. This book is not.

    Per Pinstrup-Andersen

    Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute

  • Smil has written a remarkably broad and thorough book. Its extensive factual analysis is enlivened by evaluative opinions. While not everyone will agree with all his arguments, all will find the exposition highly informative, valuable, and challenging.

    Norman Uphoff

    Director, Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development

  • Once again Vaclav Smil's assiduous smithing of numbers and interpretation of results profoundly inform us as we deliberate on how to buy time in a hungry world.

    Wes Jackson

    The Land Institute