Future-forming interdisciplinary research

Current global food production is sufficient to meet human nutritional needs in 2050 provided there is radical societal adaptation

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We present a quantitative analysis of global and regional food supply to reveal the flows of calories, protein and the micro-nutrients vitamin A, iron and zinc, from production through to human consumption and other end points. We quantify the extent to which reductions in the amount of human-edible crops fed to animals and, less importantly, reductions in waste, could increase food supply. The current production of crops is sufficient to provide enough food for the projected global population of 9.7 billion in 2050, although very significant changes to the socio-economic conditions of many (ensuring access to the global food supply) and radical changes to the dietary choices of most (replacing most meat and dairy with plant-based alternatives, and greater acceptance of human-edible crops currently fed to animals, especially maize, as directly-consumed human food) would be required. Under all scenarios, the scope for biofuel production is limited. Our analysis finds no nutritional case for feeding human-edible crops to animals, which reduces calorie and protein supplies. If society continues on a ‘business-as-usual’ dietary trajectory, a 119% increase in edible crops grown will be required by 2050.

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By  M. Berners-Lee, C. Kennelly, R. Watson and C. N. Hewitt

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