The world’s population is growing at a fast rate, and a growing population means a greater demand to feed a greater amount of people.
In this guide, we assess whether the world will have enough food in the future.
Summary – Will The World Have Enough Food In The Future?
- In terms of total quantity of food produced – yes
- The world already produces enough food to feed around 10 billion people – slightly more than the estimated total world population (of 9 to 10 billion) for the year 2050
- The rate of food production has outpaced population growth throughout the past few decades – so this is one sign of where food production is trending in the short term future
- However, there are currently problems with the way that poverty, uneven food distribution, and available food preservation technology in developing countries impact how many people in the world have access to food, and how many go hungry with no food or not enough food to eat
- These problems and other problems will impact food production, and how many people have enough food to eat in the long term future
- We are expected to reach a world population of somewhere between 10 to 13 billion by the year 2100, so, it’s likely problems and inefficiencies with the world food production and distribution system need to be looked at and addressed in order to meet this level of demand
What Are The Current Problems Contributing To World Hunger?
Mainly poverty (e.g. less resources for poor farmers to grow food, and lack of money of the world’s poorest people to buy food), and lack of infrastructure/access to technology and equipment to deliver fresh food from farms in developing countries to the end consumer.
Factors That May Impact Global Food Production, & Distribution Of Food In The Future
There are many factors that can impact production of food and how many people go hungry in the future.
Some of these factors impact the world as a whole, whereas some of them are factors that are specific to only developed, or conversely developing countries.
Factors that might be considered might be:
- The increasing world population means there is an increase in demand of food
- Climate change or changing weather patterns going into the future is going to effect agriculture and the growing of crops and other foods (with rainfall changes, changes in growing seasons, and ultimately yields of different crops in different regions). For example, corn yields are expected to be decreased in the US Midwest regions, and countries and regions like Brazil and Indonesia
- Agriculture relies on water for irrigation – if we don’t manage water resources going into the future, agriculture can suffer
- Agriculture relies on grazing land for livestock, and fertile and arable land for crops. Fertile land in particular is finite – so agricultural land needs to be managed into the future
- Agriculture has an environmental impact via GHG emissions (from livestock, and fertilizer), and from fertilizer and pesticide chemicals causing pollution, land erosion and depletion, biodiversity concerns. The environmental impact of agriculture has to be managed into the future
- 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.
- GMO crops and new technology like lab grown meat could have a big impact on food production in the future. GMO seeds for example allow for the engineering of drought resistant crops or pest resistance – providing a level of safeguarding against lack of rain fall and also decreasing the need for as much pesticide chemical use. Lab grown meat could decrease the need for as much livestock production (and the crops grown to feed them)
- Much of the crops currently being grown are not destined for people. The more developed a country’s agricultural system, the more crops tend to be used to feed animals or make fuel. This is something that needs to be looked at in the future when there are hungry people to be fed. 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.
- Regarding biofuels – electric vehicles and other alternative fuel vehicles may decrease the demand for biofuel crops
- Developed countries and wealthy regions are going to transition to a diet heavier in calories and meat, eggs and dairy in the future, but this type of diet is not sustainable from an agricultural perspective. It converts energy and resources poorly. Plant based diets convert resources much more efficiently (but, we also have to consider animals can make use of grazing land that crops can’t – crops need fertile land which is more scarce). The type of diet the human population consumes into the future can have a huge impact of how sustainably we use our resources and how much food we can produce in total
- Rather than eliminate meat altogether – we might just eat far less of it. Lab grown meat is also an option
- Food waste is a huge problem of the food we produce. It also means all the resources used to make that food get wasted too. About a third of food waste consists of truly inedible food, but the rest could have been eaten.
- Developed countries seem to be facing issues to do with food waste at the consumer level, as well as resource management issues.
- Developing countries face poverty issues (for farmers and consumers), a lack of of production and storage/transport equipment and technology, and an overall lack of resources and money to provide food for all the people that live there.
Although this is not a complete list, we can see there are many factors that can impact food production and consumption.
How To Meet Global Food Demand In The Future?
The challenges to meet food demand and to feed all hungry people are different depending on the country and region.
For example, many places in the US are going to deal with different challenges and issues than some parts of India that don’t even have access to cold food storage and refrigeration.
It’s going to take an analysis of the local economy and agricultural/food system to determine the challenges and solutions in each area.
Developed countries for example might concentrate more on minimising food waste at the consumer level, and changing the foods they eat to a more sustainable diet that is more resource efficient i.e. more plant based diet over meat, dairy and eggs.
Developing countries might concentrate on (with the help of wealthy countries) alleviating poverty, and setting up more cold food storage and safe/secure food transport technology to minimise food waste and spoilage at the producer level.