There is no need to destroy forests to feed us

A study published in Nature Communications explains how it is possible to avoid deforestation and still feed the world in 2050. 

In a Nature communications published study, researchers show how it isn't necessary to destroy forests to feed the world.

“There is an implicit assumption among many forces that we have to encroach into the tropical forests and we have to use more land to feed the people,” said professor Karl-Heinz Erb one of the authors from the University of Klagenfurt in Vienna, Austria.

Researchers explored the feasibility of 500 scenarios. Feasibility was defined as a situation in which global food demand is matched by cropland supple and livestock grazing intensity stays within ecological thresholds.

They analyzed demand, supply, trade patterns and new advances in efficiency for food production and consumption.

Their results show that human diets must change and lean to less meat dependent diets to ensure food security and avoid deforestation.

All vegan scenarios and 94% of vegetarian ones are feasible. This would mean a significant  change, considering  the per capita meat world consumption in 2014 was 42.9 kilograms/year.

In total 289 scenarios are feasible counting the vegan and vegetarian as well as some rich diets, although these depend on high yield levels.

More so, the UN estimates in 2050 there will be 9.7 billion mouths to feed, 2,6 billion more than today and about three fourths of the land are not covered by ice is already being exploited.

Meat production requires massive lands and abundant grain supply for feeding the cattle which can make it unsustainable in the coming future. Also, cattle is one of the main triggers for deforestation and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN it accounts for at least 15% of green house gas emissions.

Erb said he “was surprised that there really were so many possibilities that were feasible in a world without deforestation.” Their investigation emerged from the Global land Project  a research project form Future Earth which is an international research platform aiming to support a sustainable world.

Despite the feasibility of more than half the scenarios the authors caution this doesn't mean they are practical. For example, increasing crop yields can lead to large amounts of nitrogen wastes and affect biodiversity because of the use of fertilizers.

Also, their analysis assumed there would be a free flow of food across the world, and co-operation between countries would happen when shortages affected one region while another had surpluses. Erb affirmed to Future Earth these wouldn't be realistic scenarios.

Still this study sends a clear message about how the way people eat and the diets they have can contribute or affect the consequences of climate change, such as food security and deforestation. 

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