Up to a quarter of global food production could be lost by 2050 due to the combined impact of climate change, land degradation and loss, water scarcity and species infestation, the United Nations said Feb. 17.
The fall-off will strike just as two billion more people are added to the world’s population, according to the U. N. Environment Program (UNEP), which says cereal yields have stagnated worldwide and fish catches are declining.
In a new report, it said a 100-year trend of falling food costs could be at an end and that last year’s sharp price rises had driven 110 million people into poverty.
Prices may have eased from those peaks in many areas, but experts say volatility – combined with the impact of the global economic downturn – has meant little respite for the poor.
“We need to deal with not only the way the world produces food but the way it is distributed, sold and consumed, and we need a revolution that boosts yields by working with rather than against nature,” said UNEP executive director Achim Steiner.
More than half the food produced worldwide today was either lost, wasted or thrown away due to inefficiencies, he told a news conference at a major U. N. environment meeting in Kenya.
“There is evidence within the report that the world could feed the entire projected population growth alone by becoming more efficient while also ensuring the survival of wild animals, birds and fish on this planet,” Steiner said.
UNEP’s “Rapid Response Assessment”, released Feb. 17, said world food prices were estimated to rise by 30-50 per cent over the coming decades, while the global population is seen climbing to more than nine billion from nearly seven billion.
Price regulations for commodities should be introduced and larger cereal stocks set aside to guard against price volatility, it said. It also called for “safety nets” to be established for those most at risk from hunger.
More than a third of the world’s cereals were being used for animal feed, it said, and this proportion was expected to rise to a half by 2050. It proposed recycled food waste as an environment-friendly feed alternative.
Steiner said innovative solutions were needed, like in Niger, where UNEP experts are studying how to preserve the estimated 60 per cent of the onion crop that rots before market.