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To what extent will we be able to feed the world population without ruining the planet?

To what extent will we be able to feed the world population without ruining the planet?

In the past decade, people have become more aware that climate change is posing an increasingly dangerous threat to humanity and the environment. According to NASA, there has been an increase in global temperature of 1.8 Fahrenheit since 1880 . 17 out of 18 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 .

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10% is reportedly caused by changes in land : Forests cleared to accommodate crops or livestock, or when rural areas are converted for industrial or urban uses .

11% is directly related to farming and ranching .

The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that agricultural emissions could increase with one third by 2050, barring sufficient efforts for making farming more sustainable . The United Nations Department of Economics projects that the world population will reach 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100 .

In 2015 the world leaders of 195 countries agreed to the Paris Agreement . On 1 April 2016, USA and China (who jointly represent about 40% of the global emissions), stated that both countries would sign the Paris Climate Agreement . To reach these ambitious goals, rules were set within article 2 “This Agreement, in enhancing the implementation of the Convention, including its objective, aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty” (10).

Unfortunately, President Trump decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in June 2017 (11). If the developments continue with an increasing world population, increasing wealth in Asia which attributes to higher demand for meat, rising sea levels and deforestation, then we are at risk of ruining the earth (12) Like the Paris Agreement we should make a Food Agreement.

Food waste is one of the main problems that we need to tackle. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the USA reckons that roughly one-third of the food that is being produced gets wasted (13). Every year consumers in developed countries waste a quantity of food which equals the entire net food production of sub-Saharan, which is 230 million tonnes (14). People individually throw away between 95-115 kg yearly in Europe and North America (15). In the developed nations the biggest food waste is occurring in homes, restaurants, or supermarkets (16). However in underdeveloped countries most often food is being lost between farmers and markets, due to unreliable storage methods and transportation (17). Consumers in developed countries could attribute to the decrease of food waste with serving smaller portions, making sure to eat leftovers and the encouragement to cafe’s, restaurants and supermarkets to use waste-reducing measures (18). The Norwegian University of Life and Science developed a product that has a thermometer on the packaging which can determine how many days the product will be safe for consumption with the conditions it is being kept at (19″,20). These trackers are most helpful with fresh meat and fish because they are more reliable than expiration dates. Toine Timmermans, who is a Dutch food waste expert says that the most significant cause of food waste is that we simply produce too much food (21) and that we are currently producing enough food to sustain 12 billion people (22).

Global warming is not the only thing that we should be concerned about with the sustainability of our agriculture. Runoff is an economic threat, as well as an environmental one. According to the Food and Drug Administration, 9 million kilograms of medically necessary antibiotics were sold for food-producing animals in 2014 (23) which is equivalent to 80% of all antibiotic usage (24).

Antibiotics are mainly used to make animals grow faster and put on weight more efficiently which increases the meat producer profit (25). The industrial livestock operations produced 369 million tons in 2012, which is equivalent to thirteen times the total amount of waste given off by the 312 million residents living in the USA (26). There are very few regulations on the disposal of animal waste and no specific requirements for treatment. Animal waste is stored in ponds (called lagoons) ultimately being applied as fertilizers while being untreated (27). The preferred method of delivering antibiotics to farm animals is often through livestock food and water supplies (28). However, it is difficult to regulate how much medicine is needed for animals with the result that it ends up into fields (29). The most urgent threat to humankind is that certain bacteria are developing resistance against antibiotics (30). Moreover, this results in humans taking longer to get better, or may even die (31).

Furthermore, in 2016 it was reported that 400″,000 tonnes of pesticides were sold across Europe, with the majority being used in the agricultural sector (32). The runoff of these pesticides is the major contributor to water pollution (33). For example, when it rains, water will run along the crops, picking up litter, chemicals, fertilizers, and other toxic substances (34). From California to New Jersey, beaches are regularly closed after rainfall because of the runoff that is now carrying sewage and medical waste (35). This was published by National Geographic, which is a reliable source because it is known to have reliable information.

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These pesticides do not only damage beaches but can damage entire ecosystems with tiny micro-organisms absorbing pollutants in the runoff such as plankton or algae (36). Fish or shellfish consume these microbes. Animals such as birds and humans consume these fish, increasing the level of pollutants in our body (37). Whole food chains are being damaged (38) by biomagnification which means that organisms that are high in the food chain can end up in humans having a higher concentration of pollutants in their bodies (39).

In the USA nearly half of all the water being used goes to raising animals for food (40).

To produce one kilogram of beef, it requires: 6″,5 kilogram of crop, 15″,455 liters of water (41), 330 square meters of land and 16″,4 kilograms of carbon dioxide (42).

“With the amount of 15 445 liters of water, we could grow 60 kilograms of potatoes, 83 kilograms of tomatoes or 118 kilograms of carrots’’(43). You save more water by not eating a kilogram of beef than you do by not showering for six months (44). Animal products tend to have a much larger footprint than vegetable products. It is found that it is much more efficient to get your calories, protein, and fat through crop products than animal products (45). These data show that it is more ethical to consume the 25 kilos of grain instead of only 1 kilogram of beef.

If you do not want to give up on meat in your diet altogether, then edible insects have been hailed to be the solution to both the reduction of emissions and food shortages. Insects are high in protein, carbohydrates and contain vitamins, and should be deemed the next superfood (46). Insects require ten times fewer plant nutrients to produce 1 kilogram of insects (47). The production of insect-based foods is causing much less strain on ecosystem services than macro-livestock foods (48). Europe and North America massively need to cut back on red meat, while East Asia needs to cut back on fish and Africa on starchy vegetables (49). Also, algae and clean meat (artificial meat) have high potential and developments are going fast.

Genetic modification (GM) has changed the way we produce our crops (50). Even though genetic modification has been occurring throughout history with growing methods and selective breeding (51), in modern GM plants can be genetically made resistant to specific pesticides and herbicides, while being able to adapt to changing environmental conditions (52). With this method, the plants would require fewer pesticides which can reduce the risk of runoff (53). The primary advantage of food that has been genetically modified is that the crops become more consistent and productive which allows us to produce more food (54).

A recent study by the American Association for the Advancement of Science has been published in newspaper Science about the development of making photosynthesis more efficient by altering an enzyme called rubisco that is involved in fixing atmospheric carbon dioxide during photosynthesis (55).

The newspaper Science has the purpose of releasing scientific papers which are deemed a credible source for information. The experiment was done with tobacco which was made 40% more productive than initially, with achieving a greater mass more quickly (56). Scientists are convinced that it can also be used to potatoes, rice and soya and we would be able to cut the growing time which means that we can produce more food — securing the food supply for millions of people. However, more research is needed before it can be used because we do not need potato plants which grow 10 meters high, but potato plants which grow more potatoes.

In Bramford, Suffolk there is a 14-acre greenhouse which produces millions of tomatoes (57). The tomatoes are entirely watered from recycled rainwater and condensation. Compared to average tomato factories, the one in Suffolk claims that energy consumption has decreased by 20% while the yield increased by 35% (58). This decrease in energy consumption is done by ventilation coming through the sides where the filters are located to keep air pressure in, instead of the conventional way of having it going through the glass roof (59). The tomatoes are placed in grow bags which contain recycled coconut husks and friendly bacteria (60).

Each bag contains hydroponic straws that feed the nutrient-rich water, while violent pink LED lights make sure that the plants get sunlight (61). Moreover, free of pesticides because of the control of air pressure which results in a barrier to insects and making it easier to control heating (62). Louis Van Der Meer a Dutch crop consultant, helped with the creation.

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“On January 16, 2019, a report was published in the Lancet by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health which brings together more than 30 world-leading scientists from across the globe to reach a scientific consensus that defines a healthy and sustainable diet (63)’’. The Lancet is of irresputable reputation for its publications on research.

‘’The findings of the Commission provide the first ever scientific targets for a healthy diet and sustainable food production within planetary boundaries that will allow us to feed up to 10 billion people by 2050 (64)’’. The report claims that meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement require a fundamental shift in the way we consume and produce food (65). The report states that you can eat 14 grams of beef, 300 grams of vegetables and 200 gram of fruits a day (66).

Although there was loud protest from all over the world for this ‘’Nanny state’’ approach, there was also a lot of general understanding that everybody should contribute and eating much less meat is a fair proposition, which is promising.

A need for further research limits my essay. If I had more time, I would have taken further research with looking at the differences per continent in food waste, meat consumption, and food production and the newest developments in this field. I started this essay with a personal bias with me being vegetarian and being against the meat industry and meat consumption.

Prior to the start of this essay, I was of the opinion that if the meat production and meat consumption were eliminated, the food problem would have been solved. However, it is not that simple. The issue of how to feed an ever growing world population is daunting and needs an all-around approach and is in dire need for new technology.

While writing this paper, I realized that we should be made more aware of how much resources it cost to produce our food and the damage that it can cause to the environment. Furthermore, I realized that providing more food and having more sustainable food production is considerably more difficult than I previously anticipated.

Word count: 1986

Title:

1. Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. (2019). Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. [online] Available at: https://climate.nasa.gov [Accessed 31 Nov. 2018].

2. Ibid

3. Planète Énergies. (2019). The Impact of Food on Global Warming. [online] Available at: https://www.planete-energies.com/en/medias/close/impact-food-global-warming [Accessed 22 Nov. 2018].

4. Ibid

5. Ibid

6. Ibid

7. Ibid

8. Unfccc.int. (2019). The Paris Agreement | UNFCCC. [online] Available at: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-Paris-agreement/the-Paris-agreement [Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].

9. Nytimes.com. (2019). U.S.-China Friction Threatens to Undercut the Fight Against Climate Change. [online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/07/climate/us-china-climate-change.html [Accessed 31 Dec. 2018].

10. Unfccc.int. (2019). The Paris Agreement | UNFCCC. [online] Available at: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-Paris-agreement/the-Paris-agreement [Accessed 10 Dec. 2018].

11. Unfccc.int. (2019). [online] Available at: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/english_paris_agreement.pdf [Accessed 31 Jan. 2019].

12. Business Insider Nederland. (2019). Donald Trump stapt uit klimaatakkoord Parijs met beroep op ‘Amerikaanse soevereiniteit’. [online] Available at: https://www.businessinsider.nl/trump-trekt-zich-inderdaad-terug-uit-klimaatakkoord/ [Accessed 16 Jan. 2019].

13.Eatforum.org. (2019). [online] Available at: https://eatforum.org/content/uploads/2019/01/EAT-Lancet_Commission_Summary_Report.pdf [Accessed 9 Nov. 2018].pp430

14. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2019). Key facts on food loss and waste you should know!. [online] Available at: http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/ [Accessed 7 Jan. 2019].

15. Ibid

16. Ibid

17. Feeding 9 Billion – National Geographic. (2019). Feeding 9 Billion – National Geographic. [online] Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/feeding-9-billion/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2019].

18. Ibid

19. Ibid

20. Reissman, H. (2019). Five smart ways to fight food waste. [online] ideas.ted.com. Available at: https://ideas.ted.com/five-smart-ways-to-fight-food-waste/ [Accessed 14 Jan. 2019].

21. Keep-it.com. (2019). The Shelf Life Indicator. [online] Available at: http://keep-it.com [Accessed 31 Jan. 2019].

22.Volkskrant.nl. (2019). Cookies op de Volkskrant. [online] Available at: https://www.volkskrant.nl/wetenschap/zo-voeden-we-10-miljard-monden-in-2050-met-behoud-van-de-aarde-~b96dd115/ [Accessed 31 Jan. 2019].

23. Ibid

24. FoodPrint. (2019). Antibiotics in Our Food System | FoodPrint. [online] Available at: https://foodprint.org/issues/antibiotics-in-our-food-system/ [Accessed 3 Jan. 2019].

25. Ibid

26. Ibid

27. Ibid

28. Ibid

29.Harvey, F. (2019). Overuse of antibiotics in farming is a major new threat to human health, says UN. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/05/over-use-of-antibiotics-in-farming-is-a-major-new-threat-to-human-health-says-un [Accessed 16 Nov. 2018].

30. Ibid

31. Ibid

32. Who.int. (2019). Antibiotic resistance. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antibiotic-resistance [Accessed 22 Nov. 2018].

33. PAN Europe. (2019). Pesticide Use in Europe. [online] Available at: https://www.pan-europe.info/issues/pesticide-use-europe [Accessed 28 Nov. 2018].

34. Ibid

35. Society, N. (2019). runoff. [online] National Geographic Society. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/runoff/ [Accessed 9 Nov. 2018].

36. Ibid

37. Ibid

38. Ibid

39. Ibid

40. PETA. (2019). The Meat Industry Wastes Water | PETA. [online] Available at: https://www.peta.org/blog/meat-industry-wastes-water/ [Accessed 31 Jan. 2019].

41. Green Travelife. (2019). What does the production of 1 kilogram beef cost? – Green Travelife. [online] Available at: http://greentravelife.com/the-production-costs-of-1-kilogram-beef/ [Accessed 31 Dec. 2018].

Other essay:   Population policy

42. Ibid

43. PETA. (2019). The Meat Industry Wastes Water | PETA. [online] Available at: https://www.peta.org/blog/meat-industry-wastes-water/ [Accessed 27 Dec. 2018].

44. Ibid

45. Popsci.com. (2019). Consent Form | Popular Science. [online] Available at: https://www.popsci.com/plant-protein-healthier [Accessed 31 Dec. 2018].

46.Brown, J. (2019). Would you eat insects to save the planet from global warming? | Jessica Brown. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/15/edible-insect-save-planet-global-warming-tasty-trendy [Accessed 31 Dec. 2018].

47. Ibid

48.Doc-developpement-durable.org. (2019). [online] Available at: http://www.doc-developpement-durable.org/file/Elevages/Insectes/Insects%20are%20a%20renewable%20source%20of%20food%20for%20the%20future.pdf [Accessed 1 Jan. 2019].

49. BBC News. (2019). Meat, veg, nuts – a diet designed to feed 10bn. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-46865204 [Accessed 7 Jan. 2019].

50.World Health Organization. (2019). Q&A: genetically modified food. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/food-technology/faq-genetically-modified-food/en/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2019].

51. En.wikipedia.org. (2019). Genetically modified food. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food [Accessed 3 Jan. 2019].

52. Ayres, C. (2019). 12 Advantages and Disadvantages of Genetically Modified Foods. [online] Vittana.org. Available at: https://vittana.org/12-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-genetically-modified-foods [Accessed 12 Jan. 2019].

53. Ibid

54. Ibid

55.http://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6422/eaat9077.full-Synthetic- glycolate-metabolism-pathways-stimulate-crop-growth-and-productivity-in-the-field [Accessed 12 Jan. 2019].

56. Nos.nl. (2019). Voedselproductie kan door vondst enorm toenemen, al duurt dat nog jaren. [online] Available at: https://nos.nl/artikel/2266240-voedselproductie-kan-door-vondst-enorm-toenemen-al-duurt-dat-nog-jaren.html [Accessed 14 Jan. 2019].

57.Mail Online. (2019). Tomato plants on giant 45ft vines in sci-fi Suffolk hangar. [online] Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6600247/Tomato-plants-giant-45ft-vines-sci-fi-Suffolk-hangar.html [Accessed 13 Jan. 2019].

58. Ibid

59. Ibid

60. Ibid

61. Ibid

62. Ibid

63. EAT. (2019). The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health – EAT. [online] Available at: https://eatforum.org/eat-lancet-commission/ [Accessed 15 Jan. 2019].

64. Ibid

65. Ibid

66. Ibid

Reference list

Ayres, C. (2019). 12 Advantages and Disadvantages of Genetically Modified Foods. [online] Vittana.org. Available at: https://vittana.org/12-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-genetically-modified-foods [Accessed 12 Jan. 2019].

BBC News. (2019). Meat, veg, nuts – a diet designed to feed 10bn. [online] Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-46865204 [Accessed 7 Jan. 2019].

Brown, J. (2019). Would you eat insects to save the planet from global warming? | Jessica Brown. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/15/edible-insect-save-planet-global-warming-tasty-trendy [Accessed 31 Dec. 2018].

Business Insider Nederland. (2019). Donald Trump stapt uit klimaatakkoord Parijs met beroep op ‘Amerikaanse soevereiniteit’. [online] Available at: https://www.businessinsider.nl/trump-trekt-zich-inderdaad-terug-uit-klimaatakkoord/ [Accessed 16 Jan. 2019].

Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. (2019). Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. [online] Available at: https://climate.nasa.gov [Accessed 31 Nov. 2018].

Doc-developpement-durable.org. (2019). [online] Available at: http://www.doc-developpement-durable.org/file/Elevages/Insectes/Insects%20are%20a%20renewable%20source%20of%20food%20for%20the%20future.pdf [Accessed 1 Jan. 2019].

EAT. (2019). The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health – EAT. [online] Available at: https://eatforum.org/eat-lancet-commission/ [Accessed 15 Jan. 2019].

Eatforum.org. (2019). [online] Available at: https://eatforum.org/content/uploads/2019/01/EAT-Lancet_Commission_Summary_Report.pdf [Accessed 9 Nov. 2018].pp430

En.wikipedia.org. (2019). Genetically modified food. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food [Accessed 3 Jan. 2019].

Feeding 9 Billion – National Geographic. (2019). Feeding 9 Billion – National Geographic. [online] Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/feeding-9-billion/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2019].

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2019). Key facts on food loss and waste you should know!. [online] Available at: http://www.fao.org/save-food/resources/keyfindings/en/ [Accessed 7 Jan. 2019].

FoodPrint. (2019). Antibiotics in Our Food System | FoodPrint. [online] Available at: https://foodprint.org/issues/antibiotics-in-our-food-system/ [Accessed 3 Jan. 2019].

Green Travelife. (2019). What does the production of 1 kilogram beef cost? – Green Travelife. [online] Available at: http://greentravelife.com/the-production-costs-of-1-kilogram-beef/ [Accessed 31 Dec. 2018].

Harvey, F. (2019). Overuse of antibiotics in farming is a major new threat to human health, says UN. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/05/over-use-of-antibiotics-in-farming-is-a-major-new-threat-to-human-health-says-un [Accessed 16 Nov. 2018].

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6422/eaat9077.full-Synthetic- glycolate-metabolism-pathways-stimulate-crop-growth-and-productivity-in-the-field [Accessed 12 Jan. 2019].

Keep-it.com. (2019). The Shelf Life Indicator. [online] Available at: http://keep-it.com [Accessed 31 Jan. 2019].

Mail Online. (2019). Tomato plants on giant 45ft vines in sci-fi Suffolk hangar. [online] Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6600247/Tomato-plants-giant-45ft-vines-sci-fi-Suffolk-hangar.html [Accessed 13 Jan. 2019].

Nos.nl. (2019). Voedselproductie kan door vondst enorm toenemen, al duurt dat nog jaren. [online] Available

at: https://nos.nl/artikel/2266240-voedselproductie-kan-door-vondst-enorm-toenemen-al-duurt-dat-nog-jaren.html [Accessed 14 Jan. 2019].

Nytimes.com. (2019). U.S.-China Friction Threatens to Undercut the Fight Against Climate Change. [online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/07/climate/us-china-climate-change.html [Accessed 31 Dec. 2018].

PAN Europe. (2019). Pesticide Use in Europe. [online] Available at: https://www.pan-europe.info/issues/pesticide-use-europe [Accessed 28 Nov. 2018].

PETA. (2019). The Meat Industry Wastes Water | PETA. [online] Available at: https://www.peta.org/blog/meat-industry-wastes-water/ [Accessed 27 Dec. 2018].

PETA. (2019). The Meat Industry Wastes Water | PETA. [online] Available at: https://www.peta.org/blog/meat-industry-wastes-water/ [Accessed 31 Jan. 2019].

Planète Énergies. (2019). The Impact of Food on Global Warming. [online] Available at: https://www.planete-energies.com/en/medias/close/impact-food-global-warming [Accessed 22 Nov. 2018].

Popsci.com. (2019). Consent Form | Popular Science. [online] Available at: https://www.popsci.com/plant-protein-healthier [Accessed 31 Dec. 2018].

Reissman, H. (2019). Five smart ways to fight food waste. [online] ideas.ted.com. Available at: https://ideas.ted.com/five-smart-ways-to-fight-food-waste/ [Accessed 14 Jan. 2019].

Society, N. (2019). runoff. [online] National Geographic Society. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/runoff/ [Accessed 9 Nov. 2018].

Unfccc.int. (2019). [online] Available at: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/english_paris_agreement.pdf [Accessed 31 Jan. 2019].

Unfccc.int. (2019). The Paris Agreement | UNFCCC. [online] Available at: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-Paris-agreement/the-Paris-agreement [Accessed 10 Dec. 2018].

Unfccc.int. (2019). The Paris Agreement | UNFCCC. [online] Available at: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-Paris-agreement/the-Paris-agreement [Accessed 30 Nov. 2018].

Volkskrant.nl. (2019). Cookies op de Volkskrant. [online] Available at: https://www.volkskrant.nl/wetenschap/zo-voeden-we-10-miljard-monden-in-2050-met-behoud-van-de-aarde-~b96dd115/ [Accessed 31 Jan. 2019].

Who.int. (2019). Antibiotic resistance. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antibiotic-resistance [Accessed 22 Nov. 2018].

World Health Organization. (2019). Q&A: genetically modified food. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/food-technology/faq-genetically-modified-food/en/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2019].

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