Technology options for feeding 10 billion people
The global population is expected to reach 10 billion at some point between 2050 and 2100 according to UN projections. What role will Europe play in addressing the continued challenge of feeding a much larger world population in the coming decades? How will a more sustainable agriculture and food supply chain be created at the same time? The goal is not only to eradicate present levels of persistent hunger and to feed a larger population, but also to improve and enrich diets in large parts of the world. As part of this global endeavour it is essential to create sustainable farming systems capable of being maintained within increasingly apparent environmental limits. Current patterns of agriculture are a major source of pollution, loss of biodiversity and deteriorating soil quality in large parts of the world. Ideas about the future of the global food system are remarkably diverse. Some of these envisage mainly incremental changes to the present systems of food supply and the markets that accompany them. Others are more visionary, exploring options such as significant dietary change, accelerated investment in high tech agriculture, the revival of more traditional farming systems, and the adoption of new patterns of trade. Business as usual, even with a serious effort to increase agricultural productivity, seems unlikely to be sufficient to meet the multiple and sometimes conflicting objectives ahead of us. Against this background, the STOA Panel of the European Parliament commissioned five studies on relevant aspects of the food and related bioenergy equation, each with a European focus. These offer a broad analysis of our likely future production options, and this forward looking context then permits a focused exploration of some pressing contemporary issues. These include: the means of reversing continued declines in farmland biodiversity, the different means of achieving a significant reduction of food waste, and the options for using wastes and residues to meet biomaterial and bioenergy needs in a sustainable way. A brief synopsis of the five studies: 1. Interactions between climate change & agriculture and between biodiversity & agriculture This study describes a range of practices and developments in agriculture that could sustainably increase agricultural productivity, whilst contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and providing biodiversity benefits. 2. Plant breeding and innovative agriculture The study addresses agriculture in developing, as well as in industrialised countries (Europe), small and large-scale farming, extensive and intensive agricultural production systems, and low and high-tech production practices. 3. Options for sustainable food processing This study provides an expert judgment for the potential of new and emerging technologies to enhance sustainability in the food processing sector. It includes the following technologies: sensor technology, sustainable packaging and refrigeration climate control, non-thermal pasteurisation and sterilisation, nano and micro-technology, innovative processes for utilisation of by-products, alternative processes requiring less energy or water, plant-based meat alternatives and information and knowledge transfer. 4. Options for cutting food waste The study deals with approaches for preventing food waste based on a thorough analysis of the scale, reasons and pattern of food wastage in EU-27. 5. Recycling agricultural, forestry & food wastes and residues for sustainable bioenergy and biomaterials This study reviews and asseses bio-refinery technology options that convert biomass in the form of agricultural crop and forestry residues and waste from the food chain into biomaterials and bioenergy. The five studies recognise the strengths of the EU as a major food producer with diverse and productive agricultural systems, a high level of skills and investment, major research institutions and great potential for innovation over time. Together they identified some of the key challenges that will confront Europe as it plays a part in a more robust global agri-food system, with a view to establishing a strong and sustainable resource base with greater capacity both to produce and to conserve natural resources. According to the experts, in the coming decades, the EU needs both to determine and then to demonstrate: - How high yields can be maintained sustainably and even increased, making full use of knowledge intensive land management; - How policy can be better arranged to incentivise and require farmers to reduce pollution and pressure on natural resources, while increasing their provision of ecosystem services; - How to make significant in-roads into reducing waste and harmful over-consumption, and developing healthy diets, including the moderation of consumption of livestock products. - How to reduce Europe’s global footprint in the realm of food supply, adjusting the balance of domestic output according to a sustainability logic as well as changes in the market. - How to align energy policy and the role of bioenergy in particular with the demands of agricultural production and sustainable land use, utilising wastes and residues as a first choice. Public policy in Europe has a larger role in steering agriculture and the food system than in many other parts of the world and this produces an opportunity for the EU to take a lead if it wishes. For climate change the EU is making use of a road map to guide the evolution of policy towards the level of decarbonisation required by 2050. In the sphere of agriculture and food supply the goals and targets are less precise, but there is a role for longer term scenario building and forward looking policy frames. In the shorter term the EU can build on an evolving set of common environmental and agricultural policies. The recent CAP reform provides Member States an opportunity to initiate a change in direction while funding within the CAP is still substantial.
Short title:
Feeding 10 billion
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Project leader:
European Parliament / Panel for the Future of Science and Technology (STOA) (STOA)