A Little Less Meat For A Less Hungry Population

By: Dylan Rodgers

How can we feed the world?  This question has been asked generation after generation; it has been the driving force of technological innovation since the beginning of human agricultural dominance.  The idea has generally been to expand our agricultural land as the human population grows.  This seems simple enough.  But we are now realizing the weight of constantly transforming land into farms through deforestation.  How do we then use what resources we already have to boost our crop yield?  A study in Montreal may have the answer.

International researchers have come to a multi-faceted conclusion for nearly doubling the world food supply that will be published in the October 20th edition of the journal Nature.  Because the world population is expected to grow from 6.9 billion to 9 billion by 2050, our current model of food production will be anything but sustaining.

McGill University's Navin Ramankutty, one of the lead writers of the research, explains that if people on average ate a little less meat, say no meat one to two days a week, the impact would be enormous.  An estimated 3/4 of the world's agricultural land is devoted to feeding and/or raising livestock.  By cutting down on our meat consumption and using the livestock-land for human agricultural purposes, the global crop output would be substantially higher.  Pair that with commandeering bio-fuel for human foods and the output could jump roughly 50 percent.

The new study also deals with the fact that global populations waste almost a third of the world's food production to begin with.  Ramankutty's team proposes working out the wasteful kinks involved in the journey from farm to table.

Finally, the research shows that current use of land either isn't used to its full potential or is currently using too many or too little resources (water, nutrients, etc.).  With global education and incentive for farming in a sustainable and efficient way, the global food production could spike 60 percent.

Expanding our agricultural yield through efficiently tuning our current system instead of spreading it out more, is a refreshing thought.  Ramankutty and the team have been able to show how we can feed the hungry while reducing our over-all effect on the already struggling planet.

Photo: Backpack Foodie

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