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A ricer farmer in Tao Than village, Laos, an area hard hit by climate change. Photo: In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

By 2050, the world’s population will balloon from roughly 7.6 billion people to nearly 10 billion, which poses enormous challenges to securing an abundant and safe food supply.

Why it matters: Without effective research and development to increase crop yields, combat climate change's impact on agricultural output and increase global access to more nutritional diets, the world will experience more famines leading to forced migrations, political instability and human suffering.

Because farming techniques have improved and the agricultural industry has expanded to use nearly all the arable land in the world, the challenge of increasing yields must first be overcome in laboratories. Specifically, agricultural research must focus on ways to combat crop and animal disease, cope with increased climate variability (e.g., rainfall, droughts and heat), improve food nutritional quality and increase crop yields and resilience.

Reality check: For the first time, China now spends more on public agricultural research than the U.S., with Brazil close behind. If the U.S. fails to keep pace with these countries' funding programs, the losers will be farmers coping with climate change, smallholder farmers in the U.S. and developing world, and those in need of cures and treatments for animal, plant and human disease.

In addition to the moral and scientific arguments for the U.S. to increase its research funding, there's an equally strong one for national security: Regions that that have too little food or water, face famine or lack soil-rich nutrients are more likely to start or fall victim to conflicts, which can then easily spread.

The big picture: For years, the U.S. has led in agricultural research, development and technology — especially in the revolutionary innovation of genetic engineering. The world's food security, as well as the United States' national-security interests, are at risk if the U.S. falls behind on agricultural research.

Dan Glickman is the former Secretary of Agriculture, Congressman from Kansas and Founding Chair of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. 

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 7 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
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Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

The latest: Lawyers for James and Jennifer Crumbley told the Detroit News they are "returning to the area to be arraigned," after law enforcement officials announced a search for the Crumbleys had been initiated.