Enough for all

A study led by researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now suggests a comprehensive solution package for feeding 10 billion people within our planet’s environmental boundaries.

Supplying a sufficient and healthy diet for every person whilst keeping our biosphere largely intact will require no less than a “technological and socio-cultural U-turn”.

It includes adopting radically different ways of farming, reduction of food waste, and dietary changes.

These changes are described as being “inevitable for turning the tide to a sustainable food system”. The Institute says, for example, regarding China’s currently rising meat consumption, parts of animal proteins would need to be substituted by more legumes and other vegetables.

“Changes like this might seem hard to chew at first. But in the long run, dietary changes towards a more sustainable mix on your plate will not only benefit the planet, but also people’s health”, adds Vera Heck from PIK.

Another crucial factor is reducing food loss. In line with scenarios adopted in the present study, the most recent IPCC Special Report on land use found that currently, up to 30 per cent of all food produced is lost to waste.

“When looking at the status of planet Earth and the influence of current global agriculture practices upon it, there’s a lot of reason to worry, but also reason for hope – if we see decisive actions very soon,” Dieter Gerten says, lead author from PIK and professor at Humboldt University of Berlin.

“Currently, almost half of global food production relies on crossing Earth’s environmental boundaries. We appropriate too much land for crops and livestock, fertilize too heavily and irrigate too extensively. To solve this issue in the face of a still growing world population, we collectively need to rethink how to produce food. Excitingly, our research shows that such transformations will make it possible to provide enough food for up to 10 billion people.”

The encouraging result is that, in theory, 10 billion people can be fed without compromising the Earth system.

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