Of course, no matter where the world’s population levels off, whether it’s 9 billion or 9.75 billion, we collectively face enormous challenges in providing adequate food and nutrition to so many more mouths. We know that economic forecasting is probably even less accurate than demographic projections, but as global gross domestic product per capita has increased substantially in virtuallyarea of the world, that has created added demand for meat, poultry and dairy. That’s in addition to a worldwide 43% increase in cropland and a nearly 10% increase in grazingland.
Although populations could surpass even the UN’s relatively bold projections, we know for a fact that cropland and grazing acreage cannot.
Perhaps the most important short-term change that could help meet the feeding the world challenge, according to the report, is termination—or at least substitution—of the consumption of food crops for biofuel. In the 1970s, there was relentless pressure from activists to switch from eating meat to eating grains, the assumption being that the world couldn’t grow enough to feed both people and livestock.
That proved wrong, as significant agricultural productivity gains wiped that theory off the map. Such an exponential increase is far less likely in the next 50 years, so the food-for-fuel controversy is likely to be one that only increases in urgency the remainder of this century.
There is one silver lining in the report, and that’s on the subject of life expectancy. Between 2100 and 2300, the proportion of world’s population 65 years and older will increase from 24 to 32%, while the proportion of the population 80 years and older will double from 8.5 to 17%.
Thus, averagelife expectancy is expected to reach 74.8 years by2050; by 2225 it will be at 92.8 years.
Although we won’t be around to witness it, that means in another 200 years, 90 will be the new 80.
You gotta love that trend.
Dan Murphy is a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator