Investigating the truth about global food production

Two statistics about the need to increase global food production by 50% by 2030 and for it to double by 2050, have been widely used by the GM industry and its political supporters to skew political debate and hoodwink policy decision-makers into the further intensification of agriculture and the more widespread use of GM crops.

However, the proponents of an expansion of industrial agriculture across the globe are less forthcoming about how these statistics were arrived at.

Our team of Soil Association experts have been tracking the use of these statistics and researching the sources of the figures. They found that:

  • The doubling figure doesn't actually exist in the stated source. The data suggests a "70%" increase, but this figure is based on questionable assumptions.

  • The scientific paper that the '50% by 2030' claim is based on appears to have been withdrawn by the authors.

Those arguing for greater use of energy-intensive chemical and GM-driven food production - from the President of the National Farmers’ Union, Syngenta, Monsanto, Government Ministers and the Conservative Party - have  got their facts wrong.

Perhaps the biggest irony is that the figures for increasing food supply are based on a report where the authors set out what they thought would be the most likely future if we carried on the road of global intensified agriculture: continuing hunger, growing diet-related ill-health and huge increases in greenhouse gas emissions from livestock.

The truth

A recent study by scientists at the Institute of Social Ecology in Austria and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany (Eating the Planet: Feeding and fuelling the world sustainably, fairly and humanely – a scoping study, commissioned by Compassion in World Farming and Friends of the Earth) concluded that:

“organic agriculture can probably feed the world population of 9.2 billion in 2050, if relatively modest diets are adopted, where a low level of inequality in food distribution is required to avoid malnutrition”.

Sustainable farming methods, such as organic, can feed the world without more damage to the environment and animal welfare.

In summary, all those claiming that we need to double global food production by 2050, or increase global food production by 50% by 2030, are wrong about the figures, are wrong about what the figures apply to, and are wrong to claim that further intensification and GM will help 'feed the world'. The evidence suggests the opposite is true.