Agriculture  |  Publications  |  21.06.2011

Eating the Planet: Feeding and fuelling the world sustainably, fairly and humanely – a scoping study

A comprehensive study published by Friends of the Earth modelling how the Earth can provide sufficient food and fuel for its likely population in 2050 whilst decreasing the sectors overall environmental impact.

Feeding the world sustainably, fairly and humanely in the coming decades, under increasing pressures due to climate change, is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. This study models future food production against different diets, farming methods and land use, and concludes that enough food can be produced to feed the growing world population with fairer and healthier diets whilst avoiding deforestation and animal cruelty.

The research finds that we don't need to go veggie to feed a booming world population and save the planet from climate change and forest destruction - and that we can produce enough food for everyone without factory farming. Despite pushes from agribusiness to intensify farming to feed a growing global population that is expected to reach over nine billion by 2050, the researchers found that a diet equivalent to eating meat three times a week would allow forests to remain untouched, animals to be farmed in free-range conditions and greener farming methods to be used.

Results suggest that feeding the world with organic crops and an organic livestock system is probably feasible. This would require a growth in global cropland area by approximately 20% and the adoption of a diet with on average 2 800 kcal/cap/day and 20% of protein from animal sources. While this diet is nutritionally sufficient, a high degree of equality in food distribution would be required to avoid malnutrition.

With as many people obese in the West as malnourished in poor countries - roughly a billion of each - distributing protein more fairly is also an opportunity to tackle global health problems, the report points out. The researchers call for Governments to take action to measure and reduce the impact of the UK's meat and dairy production and consumption - and to switch subsidies from intensive to planet-friendly and humane farming.

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creative commons Bruno Lamaison