Vegetarianism Needed to Stem Drought-Related Food Crisis, Scientists Say
Meat-heavy western diets will lead to a massive global food shortage by 2050 unless people switch to a mostly vegetarian diet, says a new report. The Swedish study said humans need to reduce the amount of animal-based protein they consume by 15% in order to stem the world’s drought-related food crisis.
The study, produced by the Stockholm International Water Institute, states that “there will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected nine billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in western nations.”
Humans worldwide currently derive about 20% of their calories from animal-based protein, but a drop to 5% would be necessary to feed the extra two billion people expected to be alive by 2050, according to the report. Each person requires 50 to 100 times more water to produce the food they eat than they use in their home.
The authors of the report predict that achieving food security for the entire world by 2050 will “require that we increase food production by 70% by mid-century. This will place additional pressure on our already stressed water resources, at a time when we also need to allocate more water to satisfy global energy demand…” The United Nations definition of food security states that “food security exists when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
The United States is currently experiencing its worst drought since the Eisenhower administration, reports the New York Times. On Aug. 21, 2012 77% of the nation was experiencing drought conditions and 85% of the corn and soybeans on American farms had been damaged or destroyed, according to the US Drought Monitor.
Cows, chickens, pigs, and other farmed animals are fed more than 70 percent of the grains grown in the United States, according to the New York Times. Because droughts in the United States and globally have damaged or destroyed corn, wheat, and soybean crops, feed prices have risen sharply – nearly 50% internationally since June 2012, according to The Guardian.
The report is being released at the start of the annual World Water Week conference in Stockholm, Sweden, where politicians, UN bodies, non-governmental groups and researcher from around the world meet to address global water-related issues. The special focus for 2012 is “water and food security.”
New York Times, “Drought and the Farm Bills,” nytimes.com, July 24, 2012
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, “Save Water and Money During a Drought: Go Vegan,” eatdrinkbetter.com, Aug. 8, 2012
Dylan Stableford, “World May Be Forced to Go Vegetarian by 2050, Scientists Say,” news.yahoo.com, Aug. 27, 2012
Stockholm International Water Institute, “About the World Water Week in Stockholm,” worldwaterweek.org (accessed Aug. 28, 2012)
Stockholm International Water Institute, “Feeding a Thirsty World: Challenges and Opportunities for a Water and Food Secure Future,” siwi.org, Aug. 26, 2012
US Drought Monitor, “National Drought Summary – August 21, 2012,” droughtmonitor.unl.edu, Aug. 21, 2012
John Vidal, “Food Shortages Could Force World Into Vegetarianism, Warn Scientists,” guardian.co.uk, Aug. 26, 2012