It’s difficult enough trying to feed everyone on the planet now, but how much more difficult will it get when the world population balloons to nine billion people in 2050? That’s the question Deutsche Bank tried to answer in a new study.
The “Investing in Agriculture: Far-Reaching Challenge, Significant Opportunity: An Asset Management Perspective” study predicts that solutions like investing in irrigation, fertilization, and irrigation and farming degraded lands won’t be enough. They could even make the food crisis worse by increasing carbon emissions and intensifying water constraints. Instead, Deutsche Bank speculates that we will have to increase the use of much-loathed genetically-modified crops to increase drought and disease resistance, shift land use to increase acreage for production, and invest heavily in organic farming.
But while the majority of Deutche Bank’s report focuses on how the world can increase food production while continuing with our current industrial agro-business complex, one small section of the paper is dedicated to exploring an alternative local food system. In the “Grow local, grow organic” scenario, local, organic family farms become increasingly popular. This involves a complete revamping of the farm-to-food system with foods grown and consumed in the same place as well as community involvement through CSAs, local co-ops, and farmer’s markets.
The transition is already happening in mainstream food culture, albeit slowly. Earlier this month, the national supermarket chain Safeway announced its intentions to highlight local growers. And Burgerville, a fast food chain in the Pacific Northwest, rotates its menu with seasonal food combinations. These initiatives will have to grow on a massive scale to become relevant to nine billion people, but they may be the only alternative to oil and carbon-intensive industrial farming practices that may not be feasible 40 years from now.