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Document Abstract
Published: 1 Dec 2013

Creating a sustainable food future: A menu of solutions to sustainably feed more than 9 billion people by 2050

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With population growth and development creating ever-more demand for food (noted here as comprising two-thirds and one-third a function of the increase respectively), humanity faces a growing food gap between what will be needed in 2050, and what can sustainably be produced. In this context, this report presents the interim findings of the World Resources Report 2013-14: Creating a Sustainable Food Future; a multi-agency effort to analyse the food gap challenge and identify solutions.

The report begins by presenting the issue as a balancing act of three ‘great needs’: reduced consumption, increased production, and environmental protection, before discussing the composition of the challenge. The report outlines the scale of the problem: already, 800 million people periodically go hungry, yet according to the reports projections, the world faces a 69 per cent gap between crop calories produced in 2006, and those most likely required by 2050. Intertwined in this problem are development and poverty challenges associated with a majority poor global agricultural labour force; issues of land-use and risks to biodiversity; the challenge to sustainably increase crop production without expanding area; the significant disruption threatened by climate change; and overfishing. Combined, these issues present a serious challenge to closing the food gap in a balanced and sustainable way. In such a broad and interconnected systemic problem, a number of diverse solutions will be needed. To reduce consumption, the report suggests: tackling obesity; reducing the consumption of, and increasing the efficiency of, animal product use; reducing food waste; and assisting Africa in its efforts to reduce fertility rates.

The report notes a number of potential areas for increased food production, e.g. the breeding of better seeds, widespread adoption of water and soil management best practice, and the increasing of pasture and aquaculture productivity. It is recommended that wild fish catch be reduced, and then stabilised. Carbon sequestration strategies, the benefits of improving ruminants diets, the balancing of fertiliser use worldwide, and the need to reduce emissions from paddy rice are also presented, together with a particular mention of the competition from biofuels, whose energy benefits are far outweighed by the impact on human consumption levels.

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Authors

T. Searchinger

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