We Need to Produce 70% More Food in Next 40 Years

Tomatoes at Farmers Market Photo
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Image via: micronirav on Flickr.com

And the estimates of what it would take to get such a volume of food produced don't get any better. The money it would take to increase food production by that large amount is in the billions and even with best estimates, hundreds of millions of people will still starve by 2050, reports the BBC. Is there anything that can be done?By 2050, the worlds population is expected to rise from 6.7 billion to 9.1 billion and feeding that many extra mouths, plus finding the space to grow the food to feed that many mouths, is going to take a serious amount of work and the FAO reports that we literally need to start today. That's before we factor in the droughts, floods, water scarcity, fluctuating temperatures, and other problems that will arise from climate change, essentially tying one hand behind our back while we try to grow our own food to feed ourselves.

Developing countries, in particular, will need an additional investment of $83 Billion (yes, Billion) USD, per year, just in food production to even come close to providing enough food by 2050. This is 50% more than they are currently receiving. Making this statistics game even worse, climate change is expected to reduce food production 30% in Africa and 21% in Asia. Plus, the increased use of land and resources to produce biofuels, presents another fight over resources and space. When developing communities are living on the edge, and then hit with climate change-related disasters, a likely outcome will be that we can expect an increase in refugees, which will further stress areas that are only marginally able to take provide for their own populations.

Is this even possible?

Well, the odds sure are stacked against the human race to get this done. If land is a problem, would vertical farms work, especially in areas that are under severe weather fluctuations? There are a few in existence now, but we'd need to figure out the kinks now if we're going to feed an additional 3 billion people in the next few years.

Going vegetarian is another option and advocated by many groups for a variety of reasons. The amount of land and resources needed to produce meat is vastly more than to produce fruits and vegetables, aside from the carbon footprint, animal rights issues and water pollution associated with factory farms. If we need to feed billions of people, we need a major shift in diet, not just a Meatless Monday.

Cities can also start producing their own food, particularly in dense, urban areas, aka become locavores. Detroit for example, is undergoing what they call a "food revolution" by turning blighted, unused properties into abundant community gardens. While many people are advocating for "natural landscaping" in yards instead of using lawns, another option is to to stop using lawns for decoration and start putting them to use producing food. Neighbors could work together and ensure that everyone grows something different, so we're not all stuck with tomatoes one season.

Looks like we have a lot on our plate, or at least here's to hoping.