Agriculture needs revolutionary change to confront threats such as global warming and end hunger in developing nations without adding to the ranks of the obese, an international study shows.
The report says South Asia and Africa were “battlegrounds for poverty reduction” as the world population rose to a peak in 2050. Prospects for quick advances in curbing hunger are better for India and Bangladesh than sub-Saharan Africa, it said.
Funded by groups including the World Bank and the European Commission, the report said agricultural research needed reforms “as radical as those that occurred during industrial and agricultural revolutions of the 19th and 20th centuries.”
Research needs to be increased, and a fragmented “seed-to-table” food production system needs to be overhauled to improve co-operation between small-scale farmers, governments, companies, scientists, civil society groups and others.
The report noted estimates that net investments of $83 billion a year, at 2009 prices, were needed in developing countries to meet UN projections of 2050 food demand. “That is an increase of almost 50 per cent over current levels,” it said.
A BILLION STILL HUNGRY
“There have been great advances in agricultural development in the past 50 years with remarkable increases in productivity,” said Jules Pretty, professor of Environment & Society at Essex University in England who was among the authors.
“But there are still a billion people hungry and a lot of the progress has been made at the expense of the environment,” he told Reuters of the study, which was to be presented at a March 28-31 meeting of 1,000 farm experts in Montpellier, France.
“Just around the corner are a number of serious threats which may already be playing out – climate change, an energy crunch, economic uncertainty in the current model and rapidly changing consumption patterns,” he said.
One risk is that poor nations may imitate the tastes of rich countries, where rates of obesity are rising. In developing nations including Peru, Ghana and Tunisia “there are now more overweight people than hungry people,” Pretty said.
“Diets in developing countries will shift from low-to high-value cereals, poultry, meat, fruit and vegetables,” the report said.
That “is also likely to be accompanied by hunger and poverty in the countries with the poorest populations, while obesity rates as high as those now seen in wealthy countries will occur in others,” it said.