Scientific Foresight (STOA) By / January 8, 2014

How to feed the world in 2050?

The global population is expected to reach 10 billion at some point between 2050 and 2100 according to UN projections….

© iconspro / Fotolia
How to feed the world in 2050?
© iconspro / Fotolia

The global population is expected to reach 10 billion at some point between 2050 and 2100 according to UN projections. Together with climate change, this is a worrying evolution.

In order to assess options for feeding 10 billion people, within the European Parliament, STOA (Science and Technology Options Assessment) launched a series of studies to find answers to the following questions:

  • What role will Europe play in addressing the continued challenge of feeding a much larger world population in the coming decades?
  • How will a more sustainable agriculture and food supply chain be created at the same time?

The STOA studies on technology options for feeding 10 billion people are:

  1. Interactions between climate change & agriculture and between biodiversity & agriculture – Options in 4 pages, Summary, Study, Annexes
  2. Plant breeding and innovative agriculture – Options in 4 pages, Summary, Study, Annexes
  3. Options for sustainable food processing – Summary, Study
  4. Options for cutting food waste – Options in 4 pages, Summary, Study
  5. Recycling agricultural, forestry & food wastes and residues for sustainable bioenergy and biomaterials – Options in 4 pages, Summary, Study

The findings of these studies were brought together in a synthesis report with ‘Options for sustainable agriculture and food in Europe’ and its summary.

STOA held a closing workshop on this project on 4 December 2013, entitled ‘How to feed the world in 2050?’.  The event’s booklet contains bios and messages of the experts, the summary of the synthesis report and an article on food eco-footprints.

Conclusions regarding the challenges for Europe

The leading expert of the synthesis report, David Baldock of the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) summarised the findings as follows: “The central challenge for Europe is to pursue resource efficiency, and innovation, to conserve its resources for future production and address unsustainable environmental pressures – rather than seek a short term increase in output. We need to develop our agricultural systems in a sustainable way, while also reducing wastage, and addressing the issues of unsustainable dietary preferences such as the increase in demand for animal-derived products. There are major opportunities to reduce wastage and to address questions of dietary change, thereby diminishing overall demand. Within this framework several topical issues arise. These include the best use of agricultural wastes and residues in the bioeconomy and energy supply, the future of plant breeding and threats to bees and other pollinators. Sustainability is a theme running throughout these different topics.

With a panel of experts specialised in the studied areas, the debate was both enthusiastic and insightful. The event closed with a sense of unanimity between the speakers on the findings of the synthesis report.

Food: an emotional and cultural issue

Professor Louise O. Fresco, keynote speaker at the event, stressed that somehow we should think about a long term social contract. She highlighted the emotional and the cultural sides of the food chain: “It touches everybody as without food we do not survive for more than a few days”. She confirmed the need for making citizens aware of practical things such as sustainable food shopping and cutting food waste, but there should be an emphasis on long term awareness through education. She firmly believes if we do not tackle these subjects at the level of even primary schools then we will not solve our problem for the future.

What is your food eco-footprint?

In its broadest sense an eco-footprint represents the amount of land and water it takes to provide the resources required to sustain a person’s consumption levels, and re-absorb the associated waste. One of the major societal contributions to our eco-footprint is our production and consumption of food. An increased knowledge of these issues allows for a more informed decision making process, which has the possibility to help strengthen food security through the endorsement of both sustainable producer and consumer behaviour.

A short video explains how our food eco-footprint is the consequence of the food we eat, and how it is produced and the rate by which it is consumed, which also creates an interconnection between food consumption and climate change.

More on the event and the studies

The webpage of the workshop contains all the relevant background material such as video footage, presentations and the layman’s summaries of the studies.

Audiovisual report by EuroparlTV: How to feed the world in 2050

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