Sustainable food supply: Feeding the world long into the future

Dans 30 ans lorsque la Terre comptera plus de 9 milliards de personnes

The area of the Earth currently devoted to agricultural activity is estimated at 50%. This means that half the planet’s surface is being used to feed 7.5 billion people. But what will happen in 30 years’ time, when the world’s population reaches 9.1 billion? Will agricultural land have to increase by the same proportion, that is by more or less 30%?

In the opinion of experts who attended the 2009 How to Feed the World in 2050 forum in Rome,organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), feeding an increasingly large, rich and urban population will require raising overall food production by 70%.

Cereal production is expected to increase from 2.1 to 3 million tonnes annually, and meat production, from 270 to 470 million tonnes. The challenge is daunting, especially given that the impact of climate change combined with out increasing consumption of biofuels is only adding to the problem. And as if all this weren’t enough, worrying signs of degradation “in 15 of the 24 ecosystem services studied” including the water supply and forested areas have been noted.

But the news isn’t all bad. The FAO nevertheless finds reason to be optimistic. The report states that “the world has the resources and technology to eradicate hunger and ensure long-term food security for all, in spite of many challenges and risks.” It notes, however, that political will is going to be required to adopt sustainable development practices, among other things, and to commit to the responsible management of natural resources such as water, land and biodiversity.

In the ten years since this forum took place, it appears that the message has been getting through, including here in Montreal, where a number of sustainable food initiatives have been launched.