The world’s population is projected to pass 9 billion in 2050. An important new study asks the question: Can nine billion people be fed sustainably?
The Agrimonde project, organized by France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and International Agricultural Research for Development Center (CIRAD) has been researching this question for several years. The final report, Scenarios and Challenges for Feeding the World in 2050, was released this week.
The researchers compared two scenarios.
- Agrimonde GO is based on the “Global Orchestration” framework of the UN’s Millenium Ecosystem Assessment: agriculture would continue to develop as it has in past decades.
- Agrimonde 1 involves “increasing yields by using the ecological and biological functionalities of ecosystems to the greatest possible extent.”
A complex model examined the year-by-year impact of these approaches to 2050, in six regions: Middle East-North Africa; sub-Saharan Africa; Latin America; Asia; former Soviet Union; and OECD countries.
The project aimed not only to see if agriculture could provide the minimum number of calories to support life, but also ensure that each person has access to a healthy and balanced diet produced by systems that respect the environment, bearing in mind the increasing scarcity of fossil fuels, and taking social needs into account.
The report concludes that both scenarios would produce enough food, but that the Agrimonde GO scenario would lead to significant environmental degradation. Agrimonde 1 would allow production to expand sustainably, if three conditions are met:
- The food model that now prevails in industrialized countries must be changed, and not extended elsewhere. Changes required include reducing excessive food consumption, eliminating food loss and wastage, which currently amounts to 25% in the OECD countries.
- Agricultural production must become ecologically sound. Changes required include the implementation of more ecologically friendly production processes, and more efficient use of fossil fuels. Agricultural must take advantage both of the latest scientific advances and of traditional agricultural knowledge.
- The international trade in agricultural and food products must become more reliable. Trade between the OECD countries, the former USSR, and Latin America on one hand, and Africa, Asia and the Middle East, needs to be regulated for greater stability.
The full report will be published in English and French next month. It can be ordered from the publisher, Editions Quae. Price: 50 euros.