These are some of the more striking conclusions reported by a set of high level UK academics in the current issue of The Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions B which is devoted to 21 papers dealing with the topic of Food Security: Feeding the World in 2050. Among the topics are the following:
• Dimensions of global population projections: what do we know about future population trends and structures?
• Food consumption trends and drivers
• Urbanization and its implications for food and farming
• Income distribution trends and future food demand
• Possible changes to arable crop yields by 2050
• Livestock production: recent trends, future prospects
• Trends and future prospects for Marine and Inland capture fisheries
• Competition for land, water and ecosystem services
• Implications of climate change for agricultural productivity in the early twenty-first century
• Globalization's effects on world agricultural trade, 1960–2050
• Agricultural R&D, technology and productivity
• Food waste within food supply chains: quantification and potential for change to 2050
..... and a number of others
Taken together the papers provide a exceptionally thorough look at the future of food supply.
While the scale of the problem, increasing food supply by 70% in the next 40 years, is daunting, the researchers don't see it as insurmountable. The papers identify a number of potential avenues to increase supply. Moreover, as with the current energy debate, there is likely to be a struggle between existing agribusiness which will pressure governments for subsidies to increase supply and those who advocate conservation and efficiency (one of the papers suggest that there is 30-40% food waste in both rich and poor countries).