By 2050, the human race will have a lot of mouths to feed. A combination of longer life expectancy and higher agricultural productivity (i.e. people are living longer, infant mortality is lower, and famine is less likely than in the past) mean that the number of humans alive on Earth is expected to reach nine or ten billion by mid-century.
Is it even possible to sustain 10 billion people on the same planet? Especially if more and more will expect to adopt a so-called “Western lifestyle”, including eating more meat and having much greater choice and variety when it comes to the food they consume. Will we all need to change our consumption habits and eat less meat? Is it a question of increasing production, or is it more about reducing inequality and tackling unfair access to food?
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in by Marcel, who wonders how the world can possibly feed 10 billion people, particularly if everyone wants the kind of lifestyle we have in the West. He says: “Resources are limited. One might be able to feed 10 billion people, but 10 billion people with a Western lifestyle? The resources for that simply don’t exist.”
Is he right? To get a reaction, we put Marcel’s comment to Marta Messa, EU Liaison Officer for Slow Food, an organisation promoting local food and traditional cooking (originally founded in Italy but now campaigning internationally). What would she say?
To get another perspective, we put the same comment to Rodrigo De Lapuerta, Director of the Liaison Office with the EU and Belgium at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. What would he say?
We also had a comment sent in by Paul, who believes the only way that food production has kept up with consumption over the past few decades is by relying on new technologies to increase yields. He argues that we have now reached the limit of what we can achieve with traditional technology, and only investing more in Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) will allow us to boost yields further.
How would Marta Messa from Slow Food respond to Paul’s comment?
How would Rodrigo De Lapuerta from the FAO respond to the same comment?Finally, we had a comment from Georges, who thinks EU Member States should be investing money into “vertical farming” to transform our cities into places where food is produced close to consumers. Crudely, vertical farming means turning skyscrapers into greenhouses. More accurately, it means stacking food production vertically, often integrating it into existing infrastructure within urban environments (including skyscrapers). Is it realistic? Or is growing food hundreds of metres above ground level nothing but “pie in the sky” thinking?
What would Rodrigo De Lapuerta say to Georges’ comment?
How can we feed the world while protecting the environment? Will we have to change our lifestyles to be sustainable? Are GMOs the best way to increase crop yields, or is cutting down on food waste the better approach? Should European countries be investing in “vertical farming”? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!