Freezing the Footprint of Food

Posted on by on August 19th, 2011 | 0 Comments »

How do we feed a rapidly growing population while also protecting our planet? That is a question we will have to answer by 2050, when the global population is estimated to reach 9 billion people who will, on average, consume twice as much as we do today. In order to sustainably meet the future food demands of our growing and more affluent population, one thing is clear: we must freeze the food footprint by significantly increasing the rate of agricultural productivity.

This is no small task, and according to Dr. Jason Clay, Vice President of Market Transformation for the World Wildlife Fund*, there is no silver bullet solution. Dr. Clay urges that we need to do more with less, which means more production with less impact on land, water and other natural resources.

In a recent op-ed, titled “Freeze the Footprint of Food,” Dr. Clay identifies eight strategies to be applied globally and simultaneously in order to reform the global food system, thereby increasing food production and protecting the planet. Those strategies include the following:

  • Genetics – Use the potential of genetics in traditional plant breeding as well as new modern technologies.
  • Better Practices – Improve the poorest-performing producers to enhance food production, increase income and reduce environmental impacts.
  • Efficiency Through Technology – Double the efficiency of every agricultural input, including water, fertilizer, pesticides, energy, and infrastructure.
  • Degraded Land – Rehabilitate abandoned or underperforming lands.
  • Waste – Reduce post-harvest losses and improve infrastructure
  • Consumption – Use traditional crop leaves and other “famine foods” in urban areas
  • Carbon – Plant tree crops and deep-rooted grasses to prevent topsoil erosion that reduces soil carbon and fertility
  • Property Rights – Increase the number of Africans who hold a title to their land so that they will be more likely to invest in it

According to Clay, “To freeze the footprint of food, we need smart policies, innovative ideas and new technologies. We must intensify food production rather than expand it.”
Feeding an additional 2 billion people without expanding resources will require unprecedented global collaboration of governments, NGOs and the private sector- if we are to freeze the food footprint, the time to act is now.

*The World Wildlife Fund is a consultative partner for the Global Harvest Initiative

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