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!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – grigorenko
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29 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

    • avatar

      Including the people of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, etc ?

    • avatar

      One thing we could do is not to throw away perfectly good food. I’m talking about producers, at the source. The system is broken.

  1. avatar

    Gmo doesn’t increase yields it actually over time reduces them and forces farmers to use more and more and stronger chemicals as nature adjusts to beat the chemicals.

    The biggest surface on earth are the oceans. If you want a guarantee that you can feed 10 or even 20billion humans then figure out how to farm on the ocean. Maybe we could build islands like in the UAE but specifically for farming. We could build farming ships bigger than oil tankers. We could have farming platforms. Whatever the design may be we can use part of that surface to farm. A lot of farming could be done at one location on the sea rather than at hundreds or even thousands of farms zig zag all over on land, this should make it possible to reduce pollution. Also at sea many of the pests that cause problems on land wouldn’t exist, which could reduce the use of chemicals. It’s a extreme plan of course but not impossible with our current level of technology.

    • avatar

      The problem is a lack of fertile soil, not a problem of physical space. Look at a country like Australia, huge endless deserts and saline soils where nothing will grow.

  2. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    Sorry, but again a misplaced question!

    Let’s start systematically: “agriculture & environment…..etc” is a SHARED competence as per TFEU Article 4.

    Under a SHARED guidance: “the EU farm policy – the common agricultural policy – serves many purposes”. Therefore, its first priority is & should remain what it promises:

    * “helps (EU) farmers produce sufficient quantities of food for Europe”- NOT the whole world!

    Sorry, but I do not feel responsible to feed the whole world- nor should the EU expand their mandate on their own (again)! Global corporations, industrial farming, free enterprise together with a motive to make profits will take care of that!
    Good luck- please count me out! Who is “we”?

    Further, I do not wish to “indirectly” being sucked into supporting the global chemical giants, industrial farming methods & suffer all its negative consequences. No thank you! Plant, grow, harvest, eat & survive responsibly- locally!

    Crammed in city dwellers are most disadvantaged to access & support their local (trusted) “organic” farmer’s market- having limited choices- except the mushrooming supermarkets- not really knowing where their food originates from.

    Those who cannot feed their population because of failed polices, mismanagement, theft & corruption need to become responsible! It is mainly the West who remains a donor of last support to all failing states around the globe.

    No reason at all, that “we” (EU) voters need to save their “world”!

  3. avatar

    Why ‘feed the world’? Is Europe the only place to produce food?…

    • avatar

      No, but web waste a lot or It ( we aren’t the only One, off course

  4. avatar

    End the unjust blanket ban on genetically engineered crops, and let our scientists and farmers develop and use improved crops that are blight resistant, insect resistant, etc. So that we can reduce pesticides.

  5. avatar

    Stop the meat and dairy and egg industry…in less than 20yrs all the existing animals will pick the birth rate level that normally have.
    That means nearly 1,5 billion living creatures, in size and appetite much bigger than humans, less.
    Then we can use the land that now is used for producing animals food to cultivate vegetables and cereals for the 2 billion more humans.
    The same will happen for the water and whatever is related to the animal farming industry.The natural sources will be given to the new generations of humans.

  6. avatar

    Stop breeding it’s got out of hand .Pay people to not have kids …or a war to cull

  7. avatar

    Introduce birth control and abortion to the developing nations. They must have their freedoms, too!

  8. avatar

    Your average person is so brain washed to not look beyond the end of their nose. Since Napoleonic times the economy gets sorted out by wars and the over populations gets sorted out

  9. avatar

    I think a key approach should be using human manure as an agriculture fertilizer. There are technology available to develop safe composting processes that can make all the human origin nitrogen into organic fertilizer, and prevent pollution in rivers, seas and aquifers.

  10. avatar

    We first need to feed ourselves…if each one think like this, than theres no need to feed the worldbecause every one take care and responsability for their own life.

  11. avatar
    catherine benning

    How can we feed the world while protecting the environment?

    Who is the ‘we’ who must feed this ‘world.’ Europeans are finding it hard enough to feed their own families and self, let alone feed the world. And why should this burden be placed on us? The billionaires who feed off of those who have nothing should be pushing their hands in their trousers to feed this world and protect this environment. They are the ones doing remarkably well out of this push for globalism.

    Europeans have been mired in guilt for decades now and it should be resisted on every level. Let the ‘world’ get into the habit of searching to responsibly feed themselves. It starts with contraception. How is it we don’t hear of money being spent on that?

    The alarming weight being placed on the West by strange unnatural politically correct brain washing and the subsequent devastating outcome to our own advancement is no longer working. To reduce the West to the level of the third world and to press repeatedly for it, is simply stultifying our own advancement. Making any kind of improvement or future development in science, engineering, art, health for the basis of the human condition, impossible. Goodwill can only become important if it proves to be worthwhile to home and clan first. Only those with limited thinking power or understanding of the human psyche could not be aware of this fact. This is the real problem of inadequate mental astuteness in leadership. They constantly smash their noses in the glass of the aquarium, afraid to accept it is an obvious blockage to the world and the freedom outside of it. They hold society back as they are well aware of their inadequacy to reform which leads to their being obsolete.

    Once reality of those facts set in, the first move is to cover their mistakes from the people who pay their bill. The tax payer is kept in the dark. And that is what this loading of guilt onto the public is all about. And if you want full revelation of these failures, expect to be thrown into jail having been removed from the streets by force. It’s already happening in the UK.

    A man who wanted and has been fighting for years to reveal what is taking place by consecutive government has been lifted off the street, placed in custody and within ‘five hours of arrest’ found guilty of contempt of court and in jail for thirteen months. Where his life is in jeopardy for trying to expose the betrayal of our people and our children by the establishment.

    Feed this world first is the answer, here in our own environment.

  12. avatar

    Antigamente as pessoas comiam para viver,agora vivem para comer e com muitos exageros!

  13. avatar
    Sharon Cavada

    I fully support a movement towards vertical farming. Cities need to be greener and as urban people we also need to learn how to interact with farming.

  14. avatar

    Oh my god the Guy Who is talking IS soooo Hot.
    Anyway, i feel pretty trustful with the information that he has providen. I feel relived that the FAO is so stable right now.
    It feels good to know that they are working so hard for the goodness of the needed

  15. avatar

    Que escriba : I feel the data provided by fao is objective neutral and not biased at all. Everybody has the right to adequate food, we need to produce mire with less natural resources and this can be done. We need to reduce food waste and losses ti the minimum. 1/3 of the food produced is lost!

  16. avatar

    Of course we can, these communist articles are getting out of hand.

  17. avatar

    FAO’s possition os actually realy balanced

  18. avatar
    catherine benning

    How can we feed the world while protecting the environment?

    We can’t

  19. avatar
    Ginna coronna

    We are accostumed to waste too muchas everyday:Water, food, plastic. Thank that new generations are changing their minds. Biotechnology can help to produce more with less natural resources.

  20. avatar
    Belamie Versco

    Liberate conservative contraception bans for males and females, so demographic growth will be slower!

  21. avatar
    Caroline Walcot

    You can feed 9 billion people now if you stop food waste first by: making it easier for farmers to hire cheap labour to pick crops; stop stupid food standards that reject edible “wrong-shaped” fruit and veg; enourage intelligent short-circuit markets; stop food-fight festivals; improve preserving food for long journeys; design more intelligent targeted food aid to populations in famine situations ……above all, educate consumers to buy right, cook right and stop throwing away edible food.

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