Researchers refute claim that world needs to double food production
This blog by FoodTank discusses a recent study, which challenges the familiar assertion that “to feed the world, we need to double food production by 2050.” Since doubling current production would mean growing output faster than humans ever have, year over year for those next three decades straight, reaching that milestone through continued conventional intensification would have dramatically negative environmental and social impacts. The authors of the study aim to balance this narrative by laying out quantitative and compelling mid-century targets for both production and the environment. The new data now support a more moderate 26 to 68-percent increase. The authors also underscore that their projections demonstrate a need for an increase not in production alone, but in secure access to a nutritious and diverse diet. Citing estimates that 30 to 50-percent of food produced today ends up wasted because of gaps in storage, transportation, and utilization, the study paints a cautiously optimistic picture. Total factor productivity has increased greatly throughout the history of modern, industrialized agriculture while still creating major problems with soil erosion, nutrient losses, greenhouse gas emissions, and land conversion. That’s why it’s so critical to specify quantitative environmental goals that can counterbalance production goals. While the researchers may have made headlines by reworking the food demand numbers, they ultimately aim to steer the conversation about the future of food to a more coherent focus on sustainable intensification.