Mankind's future ability to feed itself is in jeopardy due to intensifying pressures on natural resources, mounting inequality, and the fallout from a changing climate, warns a new FAO report out today.
Though very real and significant progress in reducing global hunger has been achieved over the past 30 years, "expanding food production and economic growth have often come at a heavy cost to the natural environment," says The Future of Food and Agriculture: Trends and Challenges.
"Almost one half of the forests that once covered the Earth are now gone. Groundwater sources are being depleted rapidly. Biodiversity has been deeply eroded," it notes.
As a result, "planetary boundaries may well be surpassed, if current trends continue," cautions FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva in his introduction to the report.
By 2050 humanity's ranks will likely have grown to nearly 10 billion people. In a scenario with moderate economic growth, this population increase will push up global demand for agricultural products by 50 percent over present levels projects The Future of Food and Agriculture, intensifying pressures on already-strained natural resources.
At the same time, greater numbers of people will be eating fewer cereals and larger amounts of meat, fruits, vegetables and processed food — a result of an ongoing global dietary transition that will further add to those pressures, driving more deforestation, land degradation, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Alongside these trends, the planet's changing climate will throw up additional hurdles. "Climate change will affect every aspect of food production," the report says. These include greater variability of precipitation and increases in the frequency of droughts and floods.
To reach zero hunger, we need to step up our efforts
The core question raised by today's FAO publication is whether, looking ahead, the world's agriculture and food systems are capable of sustainably meeting the needs of a burgeoning global population.
The short answer? Yes, the planet's food systems are capable of producing enough food to do so, and in a sustainable way, but unlocking that potential — and ensuring that all of humanity benefits — will require "major transformations."
Without a push to invest in and retool food systems, far too many people will still be hungry in 2030 — the year by which the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda has targeted the eradication of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition, the report warns.
"Without additional efforts to promote pro-poor development, reduce inequalities and protect vulnerable people, more than 600 million people would still be undernourished in 2030," it says. In fact, the current rate of progress would not even be enough to eradicate hunger by 2050.
For the full story, visit the FAO website.