Worldwide Food Demand May Double By 2050
Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences have calculated that food demands by 2050 may double worldwide.
Doubling the world’s food production, they predict, will put a strain on the environment by significantly increasing the amount of carbon dioxide and nitrogen produced, which will cause the loss of many species throughout the world. But the paper shows that using high-yield farming techniques and efficient use of nitrogen fertilizers can help avoid the climatic disaster.
David Tilman, Regents Professor of Ecology, said in a statement: “Agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions could double by 2050 if current trends in global food production continue. Global agriculture already accounts for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions.”
Professor Tilman notes that much of the greenhouse gas emissions are from clearing the land needed for farming. If they continue clearing land at the current rate, an area of land larger than the United States, which is two and a half billion acres, will be cleared for agricultural use. The clearing of land also accelerates the extinction of species.
The paper shows that “intensive” farming techniques, used in richer high-yield nations, can help meet future food demands with lower environmental impacts, rather than using the existing “extensive” farming popular in poorer nations. In 2005 crop yields in the wealthiest nations were more than 300 percent higher than in the poorer nations.
Jason Hill, who contributed to the research, said: “Strategically intensifying crop production in developing and least-developed nations would reduce the overall environmental harm caused by food production, as well as provide a more equitable food supply across the globe.”
The research was published in the November 21, 2011 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online.
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