World Resource Institute

World Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future

How can the world adequately feed nearly 10 billion people by 2050 in a manner that advances economic development and reduces pressure on the environment?

This is one of the paramount questions the world faces over the next four decades. Answering it means achieving a “Great Balancing Act” to meet three needs simultaneously.

First, the world needs to close the gap between the amount of food available today and the amount required in 2050. New analysis shows that we’ll need about 70 percent more food calories in 2050 than in 2006 if global demand continues on its current trajectory.

Second, the world needs agriculture to contribute to inclusive economic and social development. Agriculture employs more than 28 percent of the global population directly or indirectly. And according to the World Bank, growth in the agricultural sector can reduce poverty more effectively than growth arising from other economic sectors. We need a strong agricultural sector if the world is to develop in a way that reduces poverty, alleviates hunger, generates revenue and jobs, and benefits women.

Third, the world needs to reduce agriculture’s impact on the environment. For instance, agriculture was responsible for approximately 24 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. It is the dominant driver of tropical deforestation. Furthermore, agriculture accounts for about 70 percent of all the freshwater withdrawn from rivers, lakes, and aquifers.

A Menu of Solutions

The World Resources Institute (WRI)'s flagship World Resources Report (WRR), Creating a Sustainable Food Future, explores how we can achieve the "Great Balancing Act." We've rolled out a series of 11 working papers and interim findings that have set the foundation for how we will achieve a sustainable food future. The papers will culminate in a synthesis report, with new model results and cross-cutting policy recommendations, to be released in 2018.

Each installment of the WRR takes a detailed look at a potential solution that could help achieve a sustainable food future, creating a “menu” of practical, scalable strategies. Some menu items reduce projected growth in consumption, such as decreasing food loss and waste. Other menu items increase food production, such as restoring degraded lands back into agricultural productivity. No item on the menu can achieve a sustainable food future by itself, and the relevance of items varies between countries and food chains. But the combination of solutions should help feed the world while contributing to poverty reduction, gender equity, ecosystem conservation, greenhouse gas emission reductions, and sustainable freshwater management.