Food production can double and solutions are available for feeding the planet

A new study shows that alarmist, Malthusian, doomsday scenarios regarding feeding the world’s population which may reach 9 billion in 2050 are not justified.

A team of researchers from Canada, the U.S., Sweden and Germany has concluded from modelling results that it is feasible to double the world’s food production while reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture. Their findings were recently published in the journal Nature.

Solutions for a cultivated planet, by Jonathan A. Foley, Navin Ramankutty, Kate A. Brauman, Emily S. Cassidy, James S. Gerber, Matt Johnston, Nathaniel D. Mueller, Christine O’Connell, Deepak K. Ray, Paul C. West, Christian Balzer, Elena M. Bennett, Stephen R. Carpenter, Jason Hill, Chad Monfreda, Stephen Polasky, Johan Rockström, John Sheehan, Stefan Siebert, David Tilman, David P. M. Zaks. . Nature, 2011; DOI: 10.1038/nature10452

Science Daily:

By combining information gathered from crop records and satellite images from around the world, they have been able to create new models of agricultural systems and their environmental impacts that are truly global in scope. ….

The researchers recommend:

  1. Halting farmland expansion and land clearing for agricultural purposes, particularly in the tropical rainforest. This can be achieved using incentives such as payment for ecosystem services, certification and ecotourism. This change will yield huge environmental benefits without dramatically cutting into agricultural production or economic well-being.
  2. Improving agricultural yields. Many farming regions in Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe are not living up to their potential for producing crops — something known as “yield gaps.” Improved use of existing crop varieties, better management and improved genetics could increase current food production nearly by 60 per cent.
  3. Supplementing the land more strategically. Current use of water, nutrients and agricultural chemicals suffers from what the research team calls “Goldilocks’ Problem”: too much in some places, too little in others, rarely just right. Strategic reallocation could substantially boost the benefit we get from precious inputs.
  4. Shifting diets. Growing animal feed or biofuels on prime croplands, no matter how efficiently, is a drain on human food supply. Dedicating croplands to direct human food production could boost calories produced per person by nearly 50 per cent. Even shifting nonfood uses such as animal feed or biofuel production away from prime cropland could make a big difference.
  5. Reducing waste. One-third of the food produced by farms ends up discarded, spoiled or eaten by pests. Eliminating waste in the path that food takes from farm to mouth could boost food available for consumption another 50 per cent.

The study also outlines approaches to the problem that would help policy-makers reach informed decisions about the agricultural choices facing them. “For the first time, we have shown that it is possible to both feed a hungry world and protect a threatened planet,” said lead author Jonathan Foley, head of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. “It will take serious work. But we can do it.”

Related:

Malthusian doomsday postponed – indefinitely 

7 billion people from October 31st by UN decree – but it is an opportunity not a problem

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One Response to “Food production can double and solutions are available for feeding the planet”

  1. roberto Says:

    HI
    very good NEWS to WORLD famine.
    roberto

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