Is it a 50, 60 or 70% increase in food that’s needed by 2050? Who’s got it right?

It seems that the new boss of the FAO, Jose Graziano da Silva, is being misquoted/quoted out of context.  In a speech he gave in February this year at The Economist Conference in Geneva, he mentioned the figure of a 70% increase in food production.  This has now been taken up and quoted extensively by the likes of Dominic Dyer who until July was chief exec of the Crop Protection Agency (see Colin Tudge’s comments on this).  Thus Dyer declares “The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that food production must increase by 70 per cent if it is to feed a global population set to exceed nine billion by 2050”. He then concludes that “producers will need to use every available technology – including pesticides – to meet future food needs and tackle the challenges of climate change”.

But check up on what he actually said — see the attached Feeding the World in 2050 and you get an entirely different view.  As Duncan Williamson of WWF says:

“The 70% figure is a misrepresentation of what the FAO said. It is presented as the only possible scenario, when in fact it was described as the most likely least desirable future, based on business as usual. If we tackle consumption, waste etc the figure would be much lower. Some in industry jumped on this and presented it as the only future and an excuse to increase production, this has since been adopted by NGOs, governments etc partly as they have not seen the whole document (which has been withdrawn).

Lets not blame FAO for this. In Feb the new boss at the FAO said the maximum was more likely to be 60% increase based on business as usual but if we tackled post harvest loss, retail and consumer waste, smallholder productively, gender empowerment, consumption and distribution [the figure would be different]. . .

I think we need to challenge the 70% figure at every opportunity and quote the truth.”

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