This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, October 4, 2013

How to Feed the World in 2050

Given the current population projections out to 2050 (9.6 billion--2.5 billion more than we currently have) and given the fact that we already have nearly a billion billion who are underfed, it is easy to see that agricultural production has to increase dramatically over the next few decades--perhaps double what it is now.  Or does it? A new report out this week by Timothy Wise of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University along with Kristin Sundell and Marie Brill of ActionAidUSA, reminds us that there are other viable policy alternatives. The authors published a summary of their findings on Huffington Post:
Recent research at Tufts University's Global Development and Environment Institute, makes it clear that reliable estimates of current supply, productivity, and demand trends -- assuming business-as-usual policies -- instead suggest the need and the capacity to increase agricultural production by just 60 percent over 2005-7 levels by 2050.
The distinction between food and agricultural production in the statistics cited above is both essential and frequently overlooked. In fact, the failure to distinguish food production from agricultural production obscures the largest single contributor to recent food price spikes: the massive expansion of agricultural biofuel production. This dramatic increase in food, feed, land, and water use for non-food products is a relatively recent phenomenon that has been poorly captured by most economic modeling to date. Few models adequately account for current trends. Even fewer offer policy-makers the information they need to understand the food-security impacts of policies such as the US Renewable Fuel Standard, which contains national mandates that drive biofuels expansion.
As our report makes clear: hunger, now and in the future, is less a matter of inadequate production than inequitable access to food and food-producing resources. The developed world's myopic focus on increasing production is obviously misguided as we simultaneously waste one-third of the food that is produced and pursue a course to devote another 13 percent of cereals to feeding our cars instead of our people.
I agree completely that we need to back away from biofuel production and that we need to invest in distribution systems as well as in agricultural productivity. The fact that we may have to increase production by "only" 60 percent rather than doubling it between now the middle of the century is still a BIG job.


  1. This guy here has point. Producing food in laboratories has a big potential in the future

    1. Wow!! I too will give him a standing ovation! I love this idea both for environmental and animal rights reasons. Thanks for the link.