Food Security: The Challenge of Feeding 9 Billion People

Continuing population and consumption growth will mean that the global demand for food will increase for at least another 40 years. Growing competition for land, water, and energy, in addition to the over-exploitation of fisheries, will affect our ability to produce food, as will the urgent requirement to reduce the impact of the food system on the environment. The effects of climate change are a further threat. But the world can produce more food and can ensure that it is used more efficiently and equitably. A multifaceted and linked global strategy is needed to ensure sustainable and equitable food security, different components of which are explored here.

The past half-century has seen marked growth in food production, allowing for a dramatic decrease in the proportion of the world’s people that are hungry, despite a doubling of the total population. Nevertheless, more than one in seven people today still do not have access to sufficient protein and energy from their diet, and even more suffer from some form of micronutrient malnourishment. The world is now facing a new set of intersecting challenges. The global population will continue to grow, yet it is likely to plateau at some 9 billion people by roughly the middle of this century. A major correlate of this deceleration in population growth is increased wealth, and with higher purchasing power comes higher consumption and a greater demand for processed food, meat, dairy, and fish, all of which add pressure to the food supply system. At the same time, food producers are experiencing greater competition for land, water, and energy, and the need to curb the many negative effects of food production on the environment is becoming increasingly clear. Overarching all of these issues is the threat of the effects of substantial climate change and concerns about how mitigation and adaptation measures may affect the food system.

Science 12 Feb 2010: Vol. 327, Issue 5967, pp. 812-818

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