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Looking to 2050: Where will food for 9 billion come from?

wheat-fieldAs world leaders, scientists and activists meet in Copenhagen to focus on the challenges of climate change, a related and equally difficult problem is looming for the global population: food security.

With the planet’s population projected to reach 9 billion by 2050 — that’s nearly 33 per cent greater than today — the demand for food will also grow, while climate change, development and other factors make suitable land for agriculture, and adequate water supplies, harder to come by.

To address this growing challenge, the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has launched a new website: Food Security.

The multimedia resource with numerous social media features aims to do more than simply provide an introduction to the food security issue. It will also feature a multi-author blog with posts from authors across the food security field, including researchers, farmers, industry leaders and consumers. The blog is designed to serve as an online destination for provocative debate about different views on food security and different approaches to feeding the growing world population.

“Feeding 9 billion mouths in the coming decades is going to require significant scientific progress, and changes that will affect all of us,” said Douglas Kell, chief executive of the BBSRC. “We can all recognise the importance of securing our food supplies but people disagree over the ways to do this and the approaches to take. The new blog on will be a place for those interested in this topic to provoke, engage, debate and discuss. If people have something important to say about food security we want to hear from them.”

The site also highlights numerous facts about the food security issue:

  • More people die each year from hunger and malnutrition than from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined;
  • The UN’s annual report on global food security confirms that more than one billion people — a sixth of the world’s population — are undernourished.
  • Africa –the only populated continent that is not self-sufficient in food production — is expected to see a doubling of its population by 2050, from 1 billion to 2 billion;
  • Demand for food is projected to increase by 50 per cent by 2030 and double by 2050;
  • Farming accounts for 70 per cent of the world’s use of fresh water that is extracted globally for human use; and
  • Agriculture is estimated to account for 10 to 12 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions (and land-use changes, such as deforestation for farming, adds much more).

What will the solution to such challenges look like? Will technology come to the rescue? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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