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The Challenge of Food

By Kelly O'Donnell

Science Forward

How will we feed the estimated 9 billion people that will be on the planet by 2050? How can food be distributed equally? We’ll hear about making more nutritious food via genetic engineering and we’ll also hear about how science can inform food...

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Version 1.0 - published on 25 Jul 2018 doi:10.25334/Q4N13Q - cite this

Licensed under CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms

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When it comes to food, humans are in a pickle. By 2050, we’ll need to double our food production in order to feed everyone. Science gives us some potential solutions to this problem, but more than that, we can understand what kinds of questions science can not answer, and what kinds of solutions science can not provide.  Meeting the challenge of feeding the world’s population will require scientific thinking and progress…and more than that.

Science Senses:

Number Sense

  •      Having a sense of scale
  •      Making back of the envelope estimates

Data Sense

  •      Recognizing bias
  •      Using appropriate sample size

Knowledge Sense

  •      Applying scientific knowledge
  •      Understanding when science can inform ethical decisions
  •      Being reasonably skeptical

Classroom Ideas:

  • Food estimates – Create back of the envelope questions for students to do based on food consumption (as seen in the video) or better yet, have students come up with these themselves and pass them to their neighbors. (NS – Having a sense of scale, making back of the envelope estimates)
  • GMO Evidence – Have students find the scientific studies that address safety issues with GMO. What does the scientific evidence have to say about GMO in our food supply? (KS – Making evidence-based arguments, communicating science)
  • Science and Policy Discussion – How can science inform the food distribution policies and GMO-related questions that are in the news today? Which questions can be answered by science and which questions can be informed by scientific findings? (KS – Understanding when science can inform ethical decisions, applying scientific knowledge, asking scientific questions)
  • GMO Debate – Have students prepare arguments for and against the use of GMO in our food supply and assign them one position or the other in class. (KS – Understanding when science can inform ethical decisions, applying scientific knowledge, asking scientific questions)

Possible Readings:

  • Freedman, DH. 2013. Are engineered foods evil? Scientific American. Pgs. 80-85
  • Godfray et al. 2010. The challenge of feeding 9 billion people. Science. 327(5967):812-818.

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