Current Challenges and Past Progress for Food Supply and Quality

Middle Ages crop rotation, soil nutrition

1700’s Jethro Tull, seed drill, enclosure and Corn Laws lead to free food trade by 1850

1810’s Alpert canning, West Indies sugar mills, artesian well drilling for water

1830’s McCormick reaper, Deere plow factories in Chicago area as distribution center


1865 Chicago Union Stockyards: Armour, Swift, Cudahy, Wilson, refrigerated rail car, Ford inspiration

1873 Glidden Barbed wire for borders in plains farming, grazing

1865 Mendel food experiments in genetics, traits, sweet pea generations, recessive-predominant

1900 Carver nitrogen cycle, peanuts, tomatoes, potatoes

1904 Holt Caterpillar tractor, other power farm machinery


1909 Haber Bosch synthetic N fertilizer, synthetic ammonia

1910 Burbank new fruits and vegetables, 1926 Wallace hybrid corn from Pioneer, now with DuPont

1930 Birdseye freezing, after 1855 Borden condensed milk

1930’s Start of major agriculture irrigation in West: Columbia R., Sierra, Colorado, CA Central Valley

1943 Borlaug, Rockefeller green revolution in seed hybrids, Mexico, Philippines, later Asia mainland

1950’s golden age of farming in US: high yields, machinery productivity, fertilizer, energy abundance

1953 Crick & Watson double helix, DNA, gene secrets

1970 Glyphosate for herbicide, insecticide, fungicide

1976 Swanson, Venture Capital - Herb Boyer, UC Berkeley

1996 Dolly cloned sheep, 2000 DNA Human genome, Ventner, NIH


2000+ Genetic modified organisms (GMO), fear of gene spread: disaster vs. new food higher yields?

2002 World agriculture by yield, supply-demand, population diet by region, safety stocks

2003+ Grain prices spurred up by energy price hikes, food conflict from new biofuel demand


Sugar more energy efficient 7:1, refinery costs of corn vs. sugar, both carbon problems

2008 Balance between diet, exercise, health complexity as food costs rise, availability tightens