How can we feed the world without pressuring the environment?

Sep 12, 2019
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Ending hunger is a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of the United Nations adopted in 2015. Feeding a growing world population by increasing food production has long been well discussed as a measure against hunger, but food production would negatively affect the environment though agricultural land expansion, deforestation, and induced greenhouse gas emissions. We, therefore, wondered; ‘how much environmental impacts increasing food production to fight hunger causes? Is it possible to eliminate hunger without pressuring the environment?’ So far, we have analyzed hunger and agricultural impacts on the environment separately, and for the first time in this study, we have combined them and tried to draw a win-win world for all.

 

To answer these questions, we conducted a scenario analysis using a computer simulation model called GLOBIOM. The results of this study showed that if we simply increase food production without improving food distribution to fight hunger, 20% more food production will be required in 2030 than the business-as-usual scenario, expanding 48 Mha of agricultural land and increasing greenhouse gas emissions by 550 Mt CO2eq/year. On the other hand, if hunger eradication efforts target the undernourished while also reducing food waste and over-consumption especially in developed countries, food production will be reduced by about 9% of the business-as-usual scenario, and the environmental impact can be greatly reduced.


To fight hunger without pressuring the environment, our results suggest that it is a key to not only increase food production, but also improve food distribution, especially food support for hunger people, reduction of food waste and over-consumption. Although in real world there are many other challenges to fight hunger, this study quantitatively show at least improved food distribution is a key to fight hunger in a forward-looking approach.

Tomoko Hasegawa

Associate Professor, Ritsumeikan University

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