The world will not be able to feed itself without destroying the planet unless a transformation on the scale of the industrial revolution takes place, a major government report has concluded.
There is a place for organic agriculture, found the report, but it "should not be adopted as the main strategy to achieve sustainable and equitable global food security". Scenarios suggesting organic production can satisfy future global demand assume major changes in peoples' diets, which "may be unachievable," says the report.
The report stated that new technologies, such as genetically modified crops and cloned livestock, should not be excluded on ethical or moral grounds, but that investment is "essential in the light of the magnitude of the challenges."
Global food price spikes in 2007-8 and 2010 saw riots and export bans around the world, and the Foresight report predicts further increases as competition for land, water and energy intensifies. Modelling done for the report, which attempted to account for climate change and water requirements as well as economic factors, predicts a doubling in real terms for maize, which feeds 300 million in Africa, between 30-80% rise in the cost of rice and 40-60% rise in the cost of wheat.
"The last three to four years have seen alarming spikes in hunger," said Haddad. "The price rises in 2007-8 were actually quite modest in a historical context but it led to 100 million more people going hungry. Bigger prices rises could wipe out the development gains of the last 20 years and promote violent conflict and migration."
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