Meanwhile, the environmental movement is trying to abolish farm pesticides, slash farming research budgets and commit the world to low-yield organic farming. Such an organic shift would immediately trigger the plow-down of about 10 million square miles of wildlife habitat to make up for lower crop yields. That's more than the land area of all North America.
Organic farmers' yields are only about half as high as the yields on mainstream modern farms. Worse, the world has perhaps 20 percent of the organic nitrogen needed to support the current farm output, let alone provide for twice as many people in the future.
The only practical way to get lots more organic nitrogen - to substitute for manufactured fertilizer - would be to clear big tracts of wildlands for ''green manure crops" like clover. The hybrid seeds, fertilizers and pesticides used on modern farms have allowed us to triple the yields on the best land.
That's how we're feeding twice as many people with the same cropland we used in 1950. We're even feeding them a higher-quality diet.
The environmental crusade against pesticides is puzzling. The risks to wildlife are not zero, but they are close to zero and far smaller than the risk of losing millions of miles of habitat.
Virginia, in fact, recently banned a soil insecticide for causing ''hundreds" of bird deaths over several years. But if Virginia had banned all pesticides, it might have taken 2 million additional acres of crops to make up for the yield loss.
How many million birds live in 2 million acres of lush wildlands? How many acres of wildlife is the environmental movement willing to give up to have a chemical-free agriculture?
Even Lester Brown, whose famine predictions have made headlines for 25 years, is now admitting publicly that his "population-management" strategy has failed. His State of the World 1995 asks, "Who will feed China?" But China's population is stabilized.
How can there still be a problem? The problem is the deep human hunger for high-quality protein. Without it, children don't reach their full genetic stature, and adults may lack energy.
Today, Third World incomes are rising rapidly, and the demand for cooking oil, meat, milk and eggs is soaring. China's per capita incomes have doubled since 1980, and the country's meat consumption has risen by 3 million tons in each of the last three years - adding nearly 50 million tons worth of feed
grains to the world's annual farm demand.
India's milk output is rising by 2 million tons, and India is only beginning its economic growth process. Indonesia is clearing a million acres of tropical forest to grow low-yielding soybeans for chicken feed - while the U.S. sets aside prime cropland in Iowa and lllinois.
It takes three to five times as many farming resources to produce a calorie of meat as a calorie of cereal. Since agriculture already occupies one-third of the world's land area, tripling the output of the food system by 2050 without higher yields would obviously be a disaster for wildlife.
If the world of 2050 has 9 billion humans living in cities that take up only 4 percent of the earth's land area, treat their sewage and invest in clean energy, what threat will they present to wildlife? Not much - unless growing their food takes too much land.
The only way we can save the wildlife for tomorrow is by tripling crop yields again, on the same cropland we're already farming. Research is currently boosting crop yields in the Third World about 4 percent per year, more than double the population growth rate.
With continued research investments - and especially with biotechnology - we should be able to keep the yield trend rising. (U.S. corn yields are now six times higher than in 1930, and we're adding bushels per acre faster than ever.)
Also, we'll need free trade in farm products - which the environmental movement is opposing, too. We'll need to use the best and safest land (of which a large share lies in North America) because yields on the best land can be three times the yields on the poorest land. Moreover, Asia will have nine times as many people per acre of farmland in the 21st century as North America.
The environmental movement has demonstrated its validity far beyond the banning of DDT. Now it is time for environmental activists to recognize the urgency of high-yield farming, chemicals and all.
The Third World can't hire enough game wardens to protect the wildlands if the people are hungry. So we can't save the wild creatures without saving the people. High-yield farming and free trade are the only ways to save both.