Study: How to feed the World´s growing Billions



Study: How to feed the World´s growing Billions

May 16, 2011

This study aims to clarify the methods used and the assumptions made in the FAO world food projections, which forecast the need for a 70 % production increase between 2005/07 and 2050, as well as to discuss the implications of this figure. We find that the FAO projections are based on solid analysis and an enormous amount of expert knowledge and country specific data, yet the assumptions and underlying methodology are poorly documented.

Furthermore, the FAO’s strong focus on increasing production in contrast to other options for improving the world food balance, especially in the communication of the analysis to the public, is unbalanced. Alongside productivity increases, the reduction of political support for biofuel production, the reduction of postharvest losses and a less meat based diet in industrialized countries should be explored. Political support for first generation biofuels should be ended. This option could be easily implemented and would have direct and significant effects on the world food balance.

A literature review suggests that there is significant scope and need for reducing postharvest losses in developing and developed countries. Current postharvest loss levels are estimated at 20–50 %, with supply chain losses the dominant form of loss in developing countries and food waste at the retail and household levels dominating in industrialized countries.

Lowering meat demand in industrialized countries would have positive effects on human health and the environmental goods. Furthermore, it would result in lower climate gas emissions and ease the introduction of higher animal welfare standards. Finally, they would improve the world food balance and result in substantially lower meat prices but only slightly reduced cereal prices. Last but not least, it is important to note that the global availability of food is not the most relevant limitation in the reduction of undernourishment, but rather it is the persistence of poverty which causes undernourishment in a world which could feed 9 billion.
Study: How to feed the World´s growing Billions
Editor Heinrich Böll Stiftung (Heinrich Böll Foundation) and WWF Deutschland
Place of publication Berlin
Date of publication May 2011
Pages 64
Service charge Free of charge

Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Abstract  
  • Key Results 
  • 1 Introduction 10 
  • 2 Understanding FAO World Food Projections 13
    • 2.1 Introduction 13
    • 2.2 Methodological Approach 15
    • 2.3 Assumptions 16
    • 2.3.1 Demand Factors 18
    • 2.3.2 Supply Factors 21
    • 2.4 Results of the FAO World Food Projections 23
    • 2.5 Political Conclusions Drawn by FAO from the Results 27
    • 2.6 Conclusions from the FAO World Food Projections 27
  • 3 On the Interdependencies of Global Agricultural Production and Hunger 28 
  • 4 Alternatives to Improving the World Food Balance
    • 4.1 Introduction 31
    • 4.2 Reduction of Postharvest Losses 32
    • 4.2.1 Introduction 32
    • 4.2.2 Causes of Postharvest Losses 33
    • 4.2.3 Current Extent of Postharvest Losses 35
    • 4.2.4 Postharvest Losses in the Course of Economic Development 36
    • 4.2.5 Potential for Loss and Waste Reduction 38
    • In Developing Countries 38
    • In Developed Countries 39
    • 4.2.6 Conclusion 40
    • 4.3 Changes in Consumption Patterns 42
    • 4.3.1 Introduction 42
    • 4.3.2 Past and Future Livestock Sector Developments 42
    • Consumption Trends 42
    • Production Trends 44
    • 4.3.3 Competition between Food and Feed 44
    • 4.3.4 Reduction of Meat Consumption in Developed Countries 45
    • Benefits from Reduced Meat Demand in Developed Countries 45
    • Taxing Meat Consumption? 48
    • 4.3.5 Quantifying Effects of Lower Meat Consumption in Developed Countries on global food balances 49
    • Literature Review 49
    • Quantitative Analysis 50
    • 4.3.6 Conclusions 54
  • 5 Conclusion 56
  • 6 References 58 
May 16, 2011
Heinrich Böll Stiftung (Heinrich Böll Foundation) and WWF Deutschland
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