Alex Renton, The Observer, Sunday

 

By 2050, the predicted world population will require the resources of two Earths to sustain it. How can we possibly meet these demands?

 

The world is going to get hungrier this century, and on a scale that will make the famines of the 1980s look paltry. The maths are simple and devastating: in 40 years’ time the global population will be 9.2 billion people – a third larger than it is now. But to feed us all, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says, we will need to produce twice as much food.

That’s because, despite the threats of this century, most developing countries will get richer. At present 350m households in the world live on £8,000 a year or more. That figure is projected to increase to 2.1bn by 2030. And the richer they are, the more wastefully people eat. Generally the poor eat vegetables, while the rich eat food that eats vegetables. Lots of it. To produce 1kg of beef takes 10kg of grass or soya-based feed. A farmed fish will have eaten three times its weight in wild fish. And the rate at which the richest consume these things is amazing: Americans consume 120kg of meat each per year; in the developing world they eat 28kg.

If the world develops as economists predict, it is hard to see how we can possibly meet these demands…

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