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This article is from the In-Depth Report 7 Billion People and Counting

How to Double Global Food Production by 2050 and Reduce Environmental Damage

Five steps, reflected in the maps below, could be taken to help feed the large population predicted for 2050 as well as reduce the sizeable harm agriculture imposes

To feed the world's growing and more affluent population, global agriculture will have to double its food production by 2050. More farming, however, usually means more environmental harm as a result of clearing land, burning fossil fuels, consuming water for irrigation and spreading fertilizer. Agriculture already imposes a greater burden on Earth than almost any other human activity, so simply doubling current practices would ruin large areas of land as well as poisoning rivers and oceans.

An international research team led by Jon Foley at the University of Minnesota has concluded that five basic changes in the way agriculture operates—and in the ways we eat—could double food production, yet decrease overall environmental impacts. The steps are as follows: improve crop yields, consume less meat, reduce food waste, stop expanding into rainforests, and use fertilizer and water more efficiently. The changes are reflected in a series of maps. For a detailed explanations, see "Can We Feed the World and Sustain the Planet?".

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