How to feed the world

The world’s population is destined to grow to 9 billion people by mid-century, and that means we have to somehow double global food production. Right?

Not necessarily, according to Jonathan Foley, director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

Foley, in a new article, says world food demand – the source of that estimate that food production might have to be doubled – is being driven more by changing diets than by population growth.

Foley argues that restraining the movement toward more meat-based diets in developing countries, and reducing the reliance on meat in the U.S. and other developed countries, could bend the curve of increased demand.

He cites research by Emily Cassidy, an Institute on the Environment scientist, that concluded a hectare – about 2.5 acres – of Midwest farmland could produce enough food calories to feed 15 people a plant-based diet, but it now produces enough to feed five people on their current diets.

Read Foley’s article, “Changing The Global Food Narrative,” published online by the Institute on the Environment. Read a 2010 Freshwater Society interview with Foley on food, population and the overuse and abuse of water supplies.