How can we feed 20 billion people

  • Thread starter wolram
  • Start date
  • #1
wolram
Gold Member
4,267
555

Main Question or Discussion Point

It is reported that there will be 20 billion people by the year 2050, just how are we to feed them unless drastic changes are made to farming and food wastage.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181010132300.htm
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
russ_watters
Mentor
19,425
5,601
It is reported that there will be 20 billion people by the year 2050, just how are we to feed them unless drastic changes are made to farming and food wastage.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181010132300.htm
Was that a typo? I see 10 billion in the linked article?

Given how little of the world uses modern farming techniques and technology, I'm not concerned about the world's ability to vastly increase food production.
 
  • #3
phyzguy
Science Advisor
4,397
1,376
There won't be 20 billion people by the year 2050. That would require that the population growth rate, currently under 1%/year, to jump to over 3%/year and stay there until 2050. In fact the world population growth rate is steadily slowing as more countries develop. Look at the data. Look at the estimates below from the UN. There will likely be between 7 and 10 billion people on the Earth in 2050.

350px-World_population_(UN).svg.png
350px-World_population_growth_rate_1950–2050.svg.png
 

Attachments

  • #4
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
2019 Award
24,040
6,645
A. As pointed out, the population will not hit 20 billion.

B. Soylent green.
 
  • #5
bob012345
Gold Member
353
35
  • #6
OCR
843
699
If it really became an issue easily manufactured ...
Soylent green.
... should meet our needs, but...


Right now, Green still seems to be on the back burner, so I believe Blue would be more... "people oriented".!

upload_2018-10-13_7-42-49.png



:DD
 

Attachments

Last edited:
  • #7
cronxeh
Gold Member
961
10
The solution is not to feed 10 Billion people, its to have less than 7 Billion by 2050.
 
  • #8
bob012345
Gold Member
353
35
The solution is not to feed 10 Billion people, its to have less than 7 Billion by 2050.
The solar system should support a population on the order of hundreds of billions if efficiently colonized. The population of Earth could be regulated at the same time.
 
  • #9
OmCheeto
Gold Member
2,114
2,501
Make it not illegal to grow your own food?

Illegal Front Yard Vegetable Garden Dispute Heard by Orlando Planning Board
Orlando couple continues to battle the City over their right to grow food, with potential $500 per day fines.
01/18/2013​

Ok. A bit old.
And somewhat myopic, as I was only able to grow less than a days worth of food in my front yard this year.
But, still.
 
  • #10
1,588
931
[Moderator's note: response to deleted post has been removed.]

Given how little of the world uses modern farming techniques and technology, I'm not concerned about the world's ability to vastly increase food production.
Let me back that up with some desert with investment...
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #11
Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
18,753
1,807
  • #12
OmCheeto
Gold Member
2,114
2,501
:oldlaugh: I had the same thought. :oldbiggrin:
Interesting, that we're only 11 years away from the 300th anniversary of the publication of A Modest Proposal [wiki].
Still haven't read it.

ps. Good grief! What was my excuse? It's only a couple of pages long: A Modest Proposal [text, Gutenberg Project]
 
  • #13
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
28,320
8,075
Moderator's note: a series of off topic posts have been deleted. Please keep discussion focused on the thread topic, which is how food production capacity can be increased if population increases.
 
  • #14
phinds
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
2019 Award
15,918
5,608
If it really became an issue easily manufactured artificial foods would be developed and mass produced.
I think this shows a lot of promise. Reports are that "hamburger meat" that is indistinguishable from the real thing in looks, taste, and texture is already a reality. I don't know that it is currently commercially viable but if not, it likely will be in the near term. If we can do that, we can do other things, most likely. "Easily manufactured" would not be applicable to today's technology, I think, but again, it's likely to be in the future.
 
  • #15
BillTre
Science Advisor
Gold Member
1,340
2,696
1) What I have most often read is that if everyone went vegetarian, there would be more food/arable unit of land.
This would be like cutting out the cow (or whatever animal you might want to eat) as the middle-man in the energy flow from sun to stomach.
It might also produce a reduction in methane production (cow farts).

2) I doubt that in the near future there will be any manufacturing method that can realistically compete with biological processes.
Not only are they reasonably efficient nanomachines, but self replicate and self assemble. They can be stored in small packages (seeds) for distribution.
It seems more likely to me that more efficient methods of growing biological organisms would be a more realistic approach.
 
  • #16
gleem
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
1,603
965
The first in-vitro meat produced and served as a burger was reportedly produced at a cost of $300,000. Recent improvements in the techniques are said to have reduced that cost to $1000. The researchers believe that if commercialized the cost could be reduce to $10. The process involves the growing of meat from stem cells. One problem is that like real animals it take time to increase the volume. For the muscle cells that are currently being used requires that the growing tissue be "exercised" during the process. So you do not just throw tissue into a nutrient solution an voila you get meat in a few weeks. In-vitro meat is also good for the environment since live stock consume much water and contribute significantly to green house gases.

So we need only to produce 1% more food per year to meet the demands to feed 10 B people by 2050. Seems easy enough with today's technology. But there are a few things that will make that more challenging. According to a University of Sheffield’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures study the world has lost about one third of arable land in the last 40 years about 1% per year. OK, that can be remediated, better soil management. But you cannot talk about food production without talking about climate. Climate change will cause some areas to be less productive not only from drought or excessive moisture but even a 1 deg C increase in temperature is know to reduce grain yields by up to 6%. Increase in temperature and moisture will increase the population of insects and disease. Some arable land will become too wet, dry, hot or cold for some crops while currently non arable land even with sufficient rainfall will probably not be as productive if at all.

One solution that is being worked on is genetic modification that help make crops more tolerant to changing climate. like drought tolerant wheat.

Another possible solution to a loss of arable land is hydroculture which is currently seeing a revival. With about 19 M sq mi. of land used for growing crops even a small percentage loss of this land would require hundreds of thousands of sq mi. of hydroponic tanks and other aqua culture facilities which will be challenging.

The newly released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change we need to reduce CO2 emissions by 45% of 2010 levels by 2030 and down to zero by 2050 to prevent dire consequences .The world is currently increasing emission by 1% per year.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/10/key-climate-panel-citing-impending-crisis-urges-crash-effort-reduce-emissions?utm_campaign=news_daily_2018-10-08&et_rid=382259872&et_cid=2416592

Feeding 10B people by 2050 is definitely doable although some of the food may be a bit different from what we now eat.
 
  • #17
phyzguy
Science Advisor
4,397
1,376
Climate change will cause some areas to be less productive not only from drought or excessive moisture but even a 1 deg C increase in temperature is know to reduce grain yields by up to 6%. Increase in temperature and moisture will increase the population of insects and disease. Some arable land will become too wet, dry, hot or cold for some crops while currently non arable land even with sufficient rainfall will probably not be as productive if at all.
But won't climate change also cause some land that is currently not suitable for growing crops to become suitable? There are huge areas of land in Canada, Alaska, and Russia where it is currently too cold to grow crops, that may become suitable for growing crops. Won't this offset some of the lost land?
 
  • #18
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
28,320
8,075
Reports are that "hamburger meat" that is indistinguishable from the real thing in looks, taste, and texture is already a reality.
These foods (the ones already on the market) aren't "manufactured" in the sense of being made from scratch out of simple compounds like carbon dioxide and water in a factory. They are foods that aren't meat, processed so that they look and taste like meat. Pea protein is a common choice for "hamburger meat" that isn't really meat.
 
  • #19
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
28,320
8,075
the world has lost about one third of arable land in the last 40 years
I haven't looked at this specific study (if you have a link please provide it), but claims of this sort that I've seen do not look at how much of the "loss" of arable land is due to it being repurposed, mostly for housing, not due to it becoming non-arable period. Certainly where I live lots of farmland has become housing developments, but it would still be perfectly good farmland if it were converted back. But because farming has become much more efficient, that land is now not needed for farming, whereas there is a high demand for housing.

But won't climate change also cause some land that is currently not suitable for growing crops to become suitable?
Yes.
 
  • #20
BillTre
Science Advisor
Gold Member
1,340
2,696
A few years ago I tried about three different kinds of veggie hamburger.

None of them were very like hamburger IMHO.
Perhaps there are better now, if so what are some examples.
 
  • #21
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
28,320
8,075
what are some examples.
I have tried "Beyond Meat", which uses pea protein. It's still not exactly like hamburger, but it's closer than other brands that I've tried.
 
  • #22
BillTre
Science Advisor
Gold Member
1,340
2,696
I have tried "Beyond Meat", which uses pea protein. It's still not exactly like hamburger, but it's closer than other brands that I've tried.
Have had that one of those. (I used to live with vegetarians, but now I don't.)
However, pea protein's mix of amino acids (similar to fish) makes it is a good thing to base food for baby fish on.

It might be more realistic to not seek a hamburger replacement (taste-wise), but rather but something that shares some taste characteristics (like savory with lipids) that could be used in a similar manner. Replication of a particular food with other components is probably not that easy.

Still waiting for Star Trek replicators to make things from scratch.
 
  • #23
gleem
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
1,603
965
But won't climate change also cause some land that is currently not suitable for growing crops to become suitable? There are huge areas of land in Canada, Alaska, and Russia where it is currently too cold to grow crops, that may become suitable for growing crops. Won't this offset some of the lost land?
That is certainly possible at least for a fraction of the land but the seasons may still be too short to match the productivity of the land that it replaces. We won't know how the land gets reallocated until it does.

I haven't looked at this specific study (if you have a link please provide it), but claims of this sort that I've seen do not look at how much of the "loss" of arable land is due to it being repurposed, mostly for housing, not due to it becoming non-arable period. Certainly where I live lots of farmland has become housing developments, but it would still be perfectly good farmland if it were converted back. But because farming has become much more efficient, that land is now not needed for farming, whereas there is a high demand for housing.
see https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/02/arable-land-soil-food-security-shortage for a summary.

None of them were very like hamburger IMHO.
Perhaps there are better now, if so what are some examples.
I have eaten a number of different veggie burgers and yes they are not like the real thing although the chicken one come the closest. Both soy beans and peas are complete proteins so we can do without the issues related to raising live stock. BTW beef is the real culprit in meat production, Chickens, pork, eggs, and dairy are 10 times more efficient with regards to resources required .. see .https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/beef-uses-ten-times-more-resources-poultry-dairy-eggs-pork-180952103/

WRT beef it along with pork are still considered bad guys for cardiac heath so doing away with them might be the best. As I said previously we might have to adapt to new foods but I would definitely miss a good grass fed beef burger.
 
  • #24
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
28,320
8,075
Both soy beans and peas are complete proteins
I personally don't digest soy protein well, so I prefer pea protein for burger substitutes. Whey protein is also complete; I have whey protein bars for quick snacks.

WRT beef it along with pork are still considered bad guys for cardiac heath
As I understand it, this is mostly due to the way they are raised in mass production in the US: fed corn and other grains, lots of antibiotics, no freedom. Free range grass fed beef, antibiotic free, is much less of a risk. See, for example, here:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/expert-answers/grass-fed-beef/faq-20058059
 

Related Threads on How can we feed 20 billion people

  • Last Post
3
Replies
72
Views
8K
  • Last Post
Replies
9
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
11
Views
2K
  • Last Post
3
Replies
52
Views
9K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
26
Views
6K
Replies
2
Views
2K
Replies
10
Views
802
Replies
36
Views
11K
Replies
2
Views
4K
Top