What if all crops were used to feed people?

By Joern Fischer

I’d like to highlight a new paper by Jon Foley’s lab, which just appeared in Environmental Research Letters. Emily Cassidy and co-authors ask how many calories would be available to the world if all the crops grown were fed to people — rather than to livestock or used for biofuels. Their analysis shows that quite a lot of calories are lost to livestock, whereas a smaller but growing amount is lost to biofuels.

In their Abstract, they pose as an interim conclusion: “We find that, given the current mix of crop uses, growing food exclusively for direct human consumption could, in principle, increase available food calories by as much as 70%, which could feed an additional 4 billion people (more than the projected 2–3 billion people arriving through population growth).”

Considering that food security is only loosely linked to greater agricultural production (because it hinges more strongly on having reliable access to food), these findings should further dampen uncritical enthusiasm for “intensification” as the obvious strategy we must pursue.

Is intensification one of several strategies we should pursue? Maybe. But more on this in tomorrow’s blog entry …

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2 thoughts on “What if all crops were used to feed people?

  1. Avid reader of this blog, even though I rarely comment.
    I’m not a big fan of “sustainable intensification” advertised as the miracle solution to feeding the world, so… I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s blog entry.
    Many thanks!

    • Thanks for the comment, Sara! Don’t expect anything too amazing… but indeed, it will be a statement related to sustainable intensification…

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