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Feeding the Planet: Greater Quantity or Just Better Quality?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's CAFO's vs. Free Range page.

With the world population predicted to rise to around nine billion by 2050, experts believe that food production must increase dramatically - by further intensifying farming. But is this really the solution? Raw investigates how a crackdown on factory farming would be half the battle won.

It's often said that agricultural productivity needs to rise by at least 60% if we are to feed the planet's ever-increasing population. According to some, this figure actually may be nearer to 100%, or double the current output.

Jon Foley, co-author of a recent academic report on the subject, says: 'Feeding nine billion people in a truly sustainable way will be one of the greatest challenges our civilization has ever faced.'

So how do scientists suggest we go about achieving such a hike in food production?

Making a bad situation worse

The report suggests that boosting existing yields is the best approach. But there's only so much productivity you can squeeze out of a piece of land before you hit a biological 'wall'; the point at which yields stop rising, due mainly to soil degradation.

At this point, there will be the temptation to cultivate more and more land for crops. This will mean destroying finely balanced ecosystems and undermining the livelihoods of small-scale farmers across the world. Bad news all round.

Indeed, the pressure to increase crop yields might also, according to a recent Guardian article, reignite the debate about the use of GM crops - an oft-cited solution to the spectre of food insecurity.

A more logical approach?

But there are a handful of far more sensible strategies out there for boosting food supply, and they're staring us right in the face.

Two of the most obvious ideas are to reduce food waste and overconsumption in the West, and it goes without saying that these scandalous modern-day habits must be broken if we are to feed the world in the coming decades. But arguably the most significant move in the struggle for food security will be to encourage people to eat less but better meat.
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