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If everyone around the world started eating the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables, there would not be enough to go around. This is the conclusion of a new study published in The Lancet Planetary Health.
Currently, only about 55% of people around the world live in countries with adequate fruit and vegetable availability – enough to meet the World Health Organization's minimum goal of 400 grams per person per day.
With economic growth, production is likely to increase. However, researchers estimate that an estimated 1.5 billion more people will live in underserved areas by 2050 – unless challenges such as food waste and improved productivity are resolved.
The report comes at a time when poor nutrition is a major cause of premature death. In fact, diseases found in more recent deaths account for more deaths than smoking around the world. And it is becoming increasingly clear that the current eating habits are also harmful to the environment. Recent studies, including the EAT Lancet study and the Global Nutrition Report, have highlighted the need for a radical change in the food system designed to encourage people to adopt a more nutritious and sustainable diet.
"Current diets are detrimental to both humans and the health of the planet and the move towards a more balanced, predominantly herbal diet is seen as crucial to improving both," write the authors of the new Lancet Planetary Health -Study.
At present, global caloric intake is more than sufficient to cover consumption. However, many people feed on poor quality, "characterized by cheap calories, heavily processed foods, and excessive consumption," the study said. These factors promote obesity – so we live in a world where many people are overweight and malnourished at the same time. The challenge is to promote a food system that "shifts its focus from quantity to quality and health of nutrition," the authors conclude. Contributors to the study include researchers from the International Food Policy Research Institute of Washington, DC, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Australia.
The authors argue that several measures are needed to tackle the challenges: Increased investment in fruit and vegetables production; increased efforts to educate people about the importance of healthy diets; and – given the fact that about one third of global food production is wasted – new technologies and methods to reduce food waste.
The forecasts for fruit and vegetable defects are based on models. Researchers rely on data on food production, but uncertainties exist in their estimates given factors such as the lack of data on global waste.
Nevertheless, they predict that several countries will improve the availability of products – such as India and Morocco. But Mexico and some countries in Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific are unlikely to have sufficient supplies.
Another new report, released Tuesday by the World Resources Institute, looks at ways to reform the country's food system to improve the health of the planet. It's a profound dive that has been conducted for years by a group of respected, science-based analysts. They argue that we need to close three major gaps to feed the projected 9.8 billion people who will be living on the planet by 2050: the food gap, the land gap and the greenhouse gas gap. The difference between the amount of food produced in 2010 and the amount we need by 2050 is estimated at 7,400 trillion calories according to the report. Yes, the number is so big that you can hardly imagine it. However, the bottom line is that we need to gain more calories from the current farmland in the world.
One way to achieve this is through improvements in breeding and technological advances. The report also lists other corrections, including reducing the use of biofuels diverting edible crops for energy production and reducing food waste. (The ReFED group has developed these cost-effective strategies to reduce food waste.)
Yet another suggested solution: Push people to a more plant-centered diet. At present, agriculture uses almost half of the world's vegetation – and at least 30 percent of the total acreage is used to grow animal feed. The resource intensity of meat production is one of the main causes of deforestation. If current trends continue, WRI estimates that we would need an additional 593 million hectares – an area almost twice the size of India – to feed the population in 2050.
Agriculture and land use are changing at the moment According to WRI, an estimated 25% of annual greenhouse gas emissions are related to food production (plowing and clearing of vegetation). However, if today's consumption trend continues, but agricultural productivity does not increase (beyond the 2010 level), the report concludes that we would have to clear most of the world's remaining forests to feed the world. And we would surpass the greenhouse gas emission targets set in the Paris Agreement, which requires that global warming be kept below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.
Ruminants (including cattle, sheep and goats) consume an estimated two thirds of all land devoted to agriculture and account for around half of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by agriculture. Demand for meat is growing as more people in more countries can afford it. However, the report concludes that reducing the consumption of meat from ruminants could have a significant impact.
WRI estimates that if people in the US and other countries with heavy meat consumption reduced their consumption of beef (and other ruminant meat) to about 1.5 burgers per person per week, "the need for additional food Nearly eliminating food would "agricultural expansion (and related deforestation), even in a world of 10 billion people. "(The Better Buying Lab, a branch of WRI that focuses on getting people to a more sustainable diet, has developed some clever, research-based marketing ideas that make people do the plant-centered change.)
WRI's new findings are similar to the recommendations of the EAT Lancet study earlier this year, with a group funded by the meat industry responding to the call for meat reduction with its own analysis showing that limiting the use of meat In this analysis, the Animal Agriculture Alliance concludes that meat and dairy products offer "unsurpassed nutrition for healthy bodies, brains and bones." The analysis also concludes that "US Farmers and ranchers continue to make great progress in protecting natural resources and environment. "
As the population continues to grow, talks are continuing on how the food system can be changed to promote health and the environment. Sustainability will continue.