This question seems to keep many people busy, and this article sums up a number of conclusions drawn by the FAO about the subject.
The information that I find the most interesting is their estimate of the percentage of the world population living in cities, moving up from 49% today to 70% by 2050. Expressed in number of people living in rural areas, this means a drop from roughly 3.2 billion people today to roughly 2.9 billion people in 2050, or around 10% less! This clearly indicates that the future of food supply is not with small farms, but that large units will have to do most of the work in order to feed everyone.
When it comes to their estimate of a necessary increase of 70% of agricultural production to meet the food demand, I have some reservations about their expectations. I doubt that with such a tight supply, people will eat as much meat and animal products as they claim. I believe that money will talk and meat being more expensive that they expect, the diet will probably include relatively more vegetal products and relatively less meat than the numbers that they present.
As I showed at the end of my previous article titled “Price of fish and meat: up”, a healthy readjustment of the Western diet will free a lot of food to feed many more people. As per today, we already are much closer, theoretically, to be able to feed these 9 billion people than we think. I say theoretically because the main problems are:
- Guaranteeing access to food through proper infrastructure, which in large part rests on the shoulders of politicians, and
- Ensuring that people have enough money to pay for food.
For those who claim that we need three or even four Earths to deal with the problem, clearly, their assumptions are based on having the whole world on the American diet, but that will not happen. We have only one Earth and that will not change. Other things will, though.