Improved diets and reductions in food waste are required to maintain global food security up until 2050 without increasing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture reports a paper published online this week in Nature Climate Change.
Food demand is projected to rise sharply in the coming decades as the population grows; increased supply is likely to come from more intensive use of existing agricultural land and expansion into previously uncultivated areas. Although agricultural expansion is the most concerning, both of these changes could result in greater biodiversity loss, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Bojana Bajzelj and colleagues investigate the environmental consequences of increased food demand and model the potential for more intensive, yet sustainable, agricultural practices (such as management that increases crop yields and improves fertilizer, pesticide and irrigation use) and food demand reduction measures (such as reduced meat consumption) to mitigate them. They find that closing the gap between yields achieved and those that are potentially possible is insufficient to meet growing demand.
However, the authors suggest that demand side-measures, such as lower meat consumption and reducing the level of food waste, may make it possible to feed a growing global population while delivering greenhouse gas emissions reductions.