Will The World Have Enough Food In The Future? (Years 2050, 2100 & Beyond)

With the world’s population growing, it’s reasonable to expect an increase in the demand for food to feed additional people.

In this guide, we look at whether the world will have enough food in the future to feed that growing population, and outline some of the important factors that may play a role.

 

Summary – Will The World Have Enough Food In The Future?

What we already know right now is that:

Various sources say we already produce enough food worldwide to feed around 10 billion people – far more than the existing population of 7.8 billion people

But, roughly 800 million people still go hungry worldwide.

Poverty and living in low income regions of the world are seen as some of the main cause of this, as it leads to uneven distribution of the food that is produced (wealthy countries and regions have more purchasing power to get access to the food, and use agricultural land for producing products of their choice e.g. even though some people go hungry, some agricultural land is used for biofuel production when in theory it could be used for food)

 

What we might consider for future population growth is:

Estimates of the future world population range anywhere from 9 to 10 billion for the year 2050, and 10 to 13 billion by the year 2100

Based on those estimates and current food production numbers, we can see that even now we produce enough food for the lower limit of the year 2100 estimate

But, there are factors that could impact food production, population numbers, agriculture, and related areas in the future

 

These factors that could play a role in the future might include:

Which countries are going to grow the most in population size, and which ones will stay stable or decrease in size

Purchasing power of consumers in different countries, levels of poverty, affordability of nutritious food, food security, and how much help farmers from poor areas get in terms of money, resources and technology available to them to farm

[It matters where majority of people are geographically located (wealthy or low income country), and their means to access affordable and nutritious food regularly]

The countries that are producing the most food, the foods they produce, and the logistics of transporting food from farm to businesses and consumers

Alternate ways to produce food, such as lab grown meat

Agricultural technology, advancements and enhancements – the use of GMOs, scientific technology that impacts soil, growing more food with less land and increasing yields and productivity of existing land

The impact of global water issues like water scarcity and water stress in the future, and how much water is available for irrigation in the future. Agriculture/irrigation is a major freshwater user in society

What climates will be like in different geographic areas – changing climates could lead to more favorable or less favorable agricultural conditions, and this impacts agriculture in the areas

How much topsoil we have left in the future

Levels of land and soil degradation

Soil health (pH levels, salinity, ability to retain moisture and so on)

Suitability of land for agriculture – How much cropland and grazing land we currently have, and suitability of unused land for productive agriculture in the future

What our food diets look like, and the types of foods we produce … different diet types like vegetarian and vegan have different potential carrying capacities compared to other diet types like animal meat and animal product heavy diets. Different foods also use more land than others at the farming stage

Piggybacking on the above point – could we use more land to grow food directly for humans instead of using land to grow animal feed for livestock?

Environmental impact of agriculture, and the impact on biodiversity and wildlife – can we keep using synthetic nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers at current levels and not cross planetary boundaries? The same goes for pesticides, greenhouse gas emissions, agricultural waste, and so on

Whether or not the yield of certain staple crops can be increased any further

Will agricultural land currently being used for fibres or biofuel be converted to food producing land? Electric vehicles and renewable energy may play a part here and reduce the need for biofuels

Whether food waste and food loss at the farm, transport, storage, and retailer and consumer are addressed in developed and developing countries

 

Another point to note is:

The rate of food production has outpaced population growth throughout the past few decades 

 

Do We Currently Have Enough Food To Feed Everyone In The World?

Yes.

We have 7.7 billion people in the world as of 2019

As of 2019, the world produces enough food to feed about 10 billion people, or roughly just under 1.5x the current world population number

Read more about current levels of food production and world population size, as well as world hunger (and the associated causes) in this guide.

 

Estimations For World Population In The Future (By 2050, & 2100)

A few different projections:

By Year 2050

[The population by 2050 is expected to reach around 9.74 billion people]

About two thirds of the predicted growth in population between 2020 and 2050 will take place in Africa

– wikipedia.org

 

By Year 2100

By 2100, the world’s population is projected to reach approximately 10.9 billion

– pewresearch.org

 

The UN projects that the global population increases from a population of 7.7 billion in 2019 to 11.2 billion by the end of the century.

By that time, the UN projects, fast global population growth will come to an end

– ourworldindata.org

 

Factors That May Impact Global Food Production, & Distribution Of Food To The World Population In The Future

Some factors affect the world as a whole, whereas some factors affect only specific geographic locations.

The factors that could impact food production, agriculture, and feeding the world population in the future might include:

– Which countries are going to grow the most in population size, and which ones will stay stable or decrease in size – population growth in poor regions that already face hunger issues is probably going to be far worse than population growth in wealthier countries

– Purchasing power of consumers in different countries, levels of poverty, affordability of nutritious food, food security, and how much help farmers from poor areas get in terms of money, resources and technology available to them to farm – there’s the producer side and the consumer side to consider here.

– In poor regions, both the financial resources available to consumers and farmers will need to improve if there is to be food available, and for people to be able affordably access nutritious food

– The countries that are producing the most food, the foods they produce, and the logistics of transporting food from farm to businesses and consumers – unless countries are able to import food at an affordable price, they will need to be able to produce a certain % of their own food, and ideally a range of foods for a balanced diet

– Alternate ways to produce food, such as lab grown meat – technology that moves food production from the farm to the lab for example could change the future of food production

– Agricultural technology, advancements and enhancements – the use of GMOs, scientific technology that impacts soil, growing more food with less land and increasing yields and productivity of existing land – all of these things could help produce more food in total, and make agriculture easier

– How much water is available for irrigation in the future – issues like water scarcity, water stress, water pollution and contamination, and so on could impact how much water is available to agriculture and irrigation in the future.

This is especially noteworthy as agriculture tends to be the major user of water in many economies

– What climates will be like in different geographic areas – changing climates could lead to more favorable or less favorable agricultural conditions (changing rainfall, hotter or colder temperatures, evaporation, changing growing seasons, changing suitability of growing certain crops, and so on).

Greenhouse gas emissions and climate change as a whole play a part here.

For example, corn yields are expected to be decreased in the US Midwest regions, and countries and regions like Brazil and Indonesia, according to some sources

– How much topsoil we have in the future – we are losing topsoil worldwide. Losing more topsoil could create big problems for agriculture and food production

– Levels of land and soil degradation – land degradation issues can impact agricultural land and productivity.

As a result of erosion over the past 40 years, 30 percent of the world’s arable land has become unproductive.

– Soil health (pH levels, salinity, ability to retain moisture and so on) – many factors impact soil health.

Good soil health is imperative for agriculture and food production, especially for crops

– Suitability of land for agriculture, and having enough land – How much cropland and grazing land we currently have, and suitability of unused land for productive agriculture.

Read more here about whether we might have enough agricultural land in the future based on per person food needs.

Arable and fertile cropland in particular is finite, compared to grazing land and lower quality agricultural land which may be more readily available

– What our food diets look like, and the types of foods we produce … different diet types like vegetarian and vegan have different potential carrying capacities compared to other diet types like animal meat and animal product heavy diets

– Piggybacking on the above point – could we use more land to grow food directly for human consumption instead of using land to grow animal feed for livestock?

In the US specifically, two-thirds of calories from crops produced are used to feed animals.

If these calories were instead directed toward humans, the U.S. could feed nearly three times as many people as it currently does.

The efficiency of conversion of animal feed to food is a consideration here

– Environmental impact of agriculture, and impact on sustainability – can we keep using synthetic nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers at current levels and not cross planetary boundaries?

The same goes for pesticides, greenhouse gas emissions, agricultural waste, and so on.

There’s also depletion of resources and biodiversity issues rising from industrial and large scale agriculture

– Whether or not the yield and agricultural efficiency of certain staple crops and staple foods can be increased any further, or whether there has to be a change in something else in order to produce enough food for the population.

Just four crops—maize, rice, wheat, and soybeans—provide two-thirds of the calories we harvest from fields. In many parts of the world, the yields for these crops are not rising.

– Will agricultural land currently being used for fibres or biofuel be converted to land used for producing food for direct human consumption instead?

Electric vehicles and renewable energy may play a part here and reduce the need for agricultural land to be used for biofuels. 

– Whether food waste and food loss at the farm, transport, storage, and retailer and consumer are addressed in developed and developing countries – less food waste and loss may lead to more resources being available.

It’s estimated that only a third of the food we waste is inedible, and also that we could realistically cut food waste in half.

There’s also the consideration that food waste also indirectly results in wasted agricultural inputs

 

How To Meet Global Food Demand In The Future?

Read more in this guide about potential solutions and strategies for feeding the world population into the future.

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/is-there-currently-enough-food-in-the-world-to-feed-everyone/

2. https://www.theguardian.com/preparing-for-9-billion/2017/sep/13/population-feed-planet-2050-cold-chain-environment

3. https://phys.org/news/2018-07-world-ways.html

4. http://www.environmentreports.com/enough-food-for-the-future/

5. http://www.environmentreports.com/change-your-diet-change-our-destiny/

6. http://www.environmentreports.com/waste-not-want-not/#section2

7. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/06/17/worlds-population-is-projected-to-nearly-stop-growing-by-the-end-of-the-century/

8. Max Roser (2020) – “Future Population Growth”. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: ‘https://ourworldindata.org/future-population-growth’ [Online Resource]

9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Projections_of_population_growth

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