Another 2 billion people are coming to dinner. How do we feed them?

How do we feed the world’s growing population without wrecking
the earth? It’s a question that looks especially urgent given
estimates that some 9.8 billion people will inhabit the planet by
2050, up from 7.6 billion now. Without improving techniques and
technology, feeding all of them would require putting an area twice
the size of India under plow and pasture while emitting as much
carbon as
13,000 coal plants
running nonstop for a year, according to
a report published on
Wednesday by the World Resources Institute.

The Washington D.C.-based think tank has been working on
this report for the
last six years, looking for a solution to our existential triple
challenge: feed everyone and shrink agricultural emissions to keep
the world from heating more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, all without
clearing more land for farming. The WRI’s report lays out a way
that everyone could get enough to eat in 2050, even as we turn
farmland into forest and allow carbon-sucking trees to spread their
leaves over an area larger than Australia.

The report recommends an all-of-the-above approach starting with
reducing the size of harvests needed. By eating less meat, leveling
off population growth, reducing waste, and phasing out biofuels, we
could reduce the amount of additional food needed by half:

World Resources Institute

But diminishing demand for meat by getting more people to go
vegan just isn’t enough.

“There’s a tendency in this field for people to treat
dietary change as a magic asterisk where somehow we wave our hands
and there will be an overwhelming reduction in meat eating,” said
Tim Searchinger the Princeton professor who led the research on
this report. “We wanted to focus on things that were realistic
and achievable.”

If we also develop better seeds and animal breeds and use
existing farm and pasture-land more intensively, we could shrink
our agricultural footprint by 800 million hectares, an area bigger
than Texas.

That’s important, because the world needs to cover at least
one Texas with trees to keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees of
warming. And, as the chart below shows, we’d have to do all of
the above and more if we want to make agriculture do its part in
reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Pulling all this off seems daunting, but the researchers divided
the action needed into a 22-item “menu” with discrete
recommendations like eating less beef and lamb, and breeding crops
that can withstand higher temperatures.

“Not everything on the menu is going to be for everyone,”
said Richard Waite, a WRI researcher who worked on the study.
“But there’s something for everyone whether you are just
shopping for your family, or in charge of food procurement for a
major company,”

The report also points out that very little of the $600 billion
a year governments spend on agriculture goes toward the innovations
that would give us a sustainable food system. Agricultural research
and development gets just $50 billion a year — that’s including
private funding and public support.

World Resources Institute

Most of the money for agriculture comes in the form of subsidies
and price-supports that shelter farmers from changes in the
industry. The report says if those funds were diverted to programs
that reduce food waste, squeeze more food from the ground, and
study how to improve soil health, the world could solve this
three-headed monster of a problem.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline
Another 2 billion people are coming to dinner. How do we feed
them?
on Dec 5, 2018.

Source: FS – All – Food and Nutrition Blogs
Another 2 billion people are coming to dinner. How do we feed them?