Plugging the future food gap relies heavily on slashing waste

Tackling food waste successfully will be critical to meet the world's growing food needs as new research proposes that the planet will need 70% more food to feed a global population of 9.6 billion in 2050.

The study Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future – jointly produced by a number of organisations including the World Resources Institute (WRI) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) – states that it is possible to close the food gap in a sustainable way, but that it relies on surmounting several challenges.

One of these is to reduce excessive consumption by minimising food loss and waste – with 25% of calories from food grown for human consumption currently lost or wasted, this figure would need to be halved by 2050 to close 20% of the food gap.

“The waste of over 1.3 billion tonnes of food every year is causing the world significant economic losses, while placing added pressure on the natural resources needed to feed the planet,” commented Achim Steiner, UN under-secretary general and UNEP executive director.

There also needs to be a huge shift in diet. The study points out that reducing excessive demand for animal products, particularly by developed countries, would spare hundreds of millions of hectares of forests that otherwise would be cleared for grazing.

Improving soil and water management through practices such as agroforestry and water harvesting will increase crop yields for farmers on existing agricultural land, while restoring low carbon ‘degraded’ would also prove beneficial, the report suggests.

“Over the next several decades, the world faces a grand challenge–and opportunity–at the intersection of food security, development and the environment,” added Dr Andrew Steer, president of WRI.

“To meet human needs, we must close the 70% gap between the food we will need and the food available today. But, we must do so in a way that creates opportunities for the rural poor, limits clearing of forests, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.”

Maxine Perella

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