Fast Facts on Feeding the Future
March 8, 2011 | Robert Puro
As the world waits with baited breath for the next Green Revolution to officially commence (hopefully one driven by sustainable agriculture practices and technologies), here are some quick facts to wrap your head around:
- The UN Population Division estimates that 2050, the world population will peak at around 9 billion an increase of nearly 40% from the current number – 6.5 billion
- To accommodate an additional 2.6 billion people as well as evolving demand for meat and livestock in the developing world global food production will need to increase by 70%
- According to the FAO, since the early 1960s agricultural area has expanded by 11% from 4.5 – 5 billion hectares and arable area from 1.27 to 1.4 billion hectares. However, agricultural area has fallen by 3% in industrialized countries, but increased by 21% in developing countries.
- Agriculture consumes about 70 percent of all freshwater withdrawn worldwide and up to 95 percent in several developing countries. Water scarcity impacts nearly 40% of the people on the planet. By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.
- Globally, 80% of land currently suitable for raising crops is in use
- Worldwide, the FAO estimates that 5 million to 7 million hectares of farming land disappear each year
- Roughly 30 to 40% of food in both the developed and developing worlds is currently lost to waste. In the developing world, food waste is most likely due to lack of food-chain infrastructure as well as investment in proper storage technology. In the developed world, food waste is often due to consumers who demand food that is aesthetically pleasing and thus food retailers and producers often discard edible, yet slightly imperfect food.
- Topsoil, the layer which provides almost all of the essential nutrients that help plants grow, is being lost in China 57 times faster than it can be replaced through natural processes. In Europe that figure is 17 times, in America 10 times while five times as much soil is being lost in Australia. If measures are not taken, topsoil could vanish in 60 years
- Reserves of Phosphorus, one of the three core nutrients along with Nitrogen and Potassium required for plant growth, are estimated by many to run out in the next 50 – 130 years.
- In 2008, GM crops were grown on almost 300 million acres in 25 countries, of which 15 were developing countries
 C. James, Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2008 (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, Ithaca, NY, 2008)