It is estimated that by 2050 the world will face an increase in food demand of 70%. There are two main factors involved. The first is the 26% increase in the global population that will reach 9.1 billion people by 2050.
The second is the increased demand for improved nutrition, particularly animal proteins (meat, eggs, milk) driven by a surge in per capita income in emerging markets. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) expects the global demand for animal proteins to double by 2050.
Due to natural resource constraints, such as scarcity of arable land and fresh water, 70% of this food production increase will have to come from efficiency-improving technologies.
For example, it is estimated that milk consumption will increase threefold by 2050 while the available land and water resources necessary for milk production will be shrinking.
This so-called “productivity imperative” is being addressed by the animal health industry in two ways:
Zoonoses are diseases that are transmissible between animals and people. Bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi that are carried by animals and insects cause these diseases. It is estimated that two thirds of new human diseases are zoonotic. Caring for the health of animals is the first important step in preventing zoonoses.
Although zoonotic pathogens are the most likely source of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, so far and only a small number have caused serious epidemics in the human population.
One recent example is the H1N1 flu (swine flu) pandemic in 2009-2010 that spread to many countries around the world, killing up to 0.5 million people. Fortunately, this outbreak was much less serious than the first H1N1 pandemic that occurred in 1918 and killed more than 50 million people worldwide, 3-5% of the world’s population.
Farm animals are often given small doses of antibiotics in their feed, in order to boost growth and prevent disease. There is the possibility that this increases the risk of antibiotic resistance spreading to humans.
As antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections emerged as a major concern, the United States government made it an issue of national security and the World Health Organization declared antimicrobial resistance to be a global threat.