Telling Porkies

The widely quoted figure that food production must double by 2050 has been exposed as a myth in a new report by the Soil Association. Telling porkies: The big fat lie about doubling food production, brings the figure into question, stating that it has been used to justify an expansion of industrial factory farming at the expense of sustainable food production.

The future direction of food and farming is being driven almost entirely by the frequently quoted statistic and has been used in speeches by a number of government officials, policy makers and biotech companies.
However, the Soil Association says the source for this statistic, a report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) from 2006, does not actually make this claim, and that all those believing we need to double production to end starvation are mistaken.
 “Research into the doubling figure shows it doesn’t actually exist in the stated source, and that it is based on a number of incorrect assumptions,” the Soil Association says. “The scientific basis for the claims are based on a report which, on close inspection, actually says production would need to increase by around 70%, not 100%. As the government states, this is a significant difference”.

Soil Association director Peter Melchett said the statistic had been used to promote industrial farming and the development of genetic modified crops, and has made it increasingly difficult for advocates of sustainable farming methods, such as organic, to convince people we can feed the world’s population without more damage to the environment and animal welfare. “Many of those misusing the statistics appear to be unaware that they are condemning many in developing countries to ill-health and early deaths, because they assume the spread of our unhealthy, Western diet to developing countries,” he said. “In addition, these projections assume an increase of over a billion cattle, which would lead to massive increases in emissions of global warming gases.”

Independent sources quoted in the report say that with fairer diets and better distribution of food, organic farming is capable of feeding the world by 2050, with healthy diets.

The Ecologist
The Soil Association

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