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Josef Hargrave

Global foresight manager

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Dr Chris Luebkeman
Arup Fellow

How do we prepare for future food shortages?

The production, distribution and consumption of food impacts our everyday lives – but to what extent? Faced with malnutrition in developing countries and food wastage at every stage of the supply chain, how can we guarantee a future of food production that both responds to global demand and is environmentally responsible?

Should food be reserved for eating?

Cultivated food is increasingly being used as an alternative to crude oil, which depends upon foreign supply. In Brazil, sugar-cane ethanol has displaced 40% of the country's gasoline. Food-fuel growth has been achieved largely through increasing subsidies, which in 2006 reached US$11bn, yet feeding the planet’s expected 2050 population of 9.7 bn inhabitants will require us to increase food production for human consumption by around 50%.

One third of the approximate 1.3 bn tonnes of food produced annually for human consumption is wasted. Global supply chains connect minimum-cost producers and processors with their target consumers, and waste is encountered at each stage. Ethical food production and the impacts of global heating on crop growth are being addressed by the development of sustainable, site-flexible production methods and versatile growth systems such as aeroponic farming, whilst emerging alternative meals based on lab-grown meat and sustainable protein-rich algae suggest ways of combating food shortage, malnutrition, and the environmental impact of production. The Drivers of Change Food cards examine the key developments in the production, distribution and consumption of food.