The future of the global food system
Godfray HCJ., Crute IR., Haddad L., Muir JF., Nisbett N., Lawrence D., Pretty J., Robinson S., Toulmin C., Whiteley R.
Although food prices in major world markets are at or near a historical low, there is increasing concern about food security-the ability of the world to provide healthy and environmentally sustainable diets for all its peoples. This article is an introduction to a collection of reviews whose authors were asked to explore the major drivers affecting the food system between now and 2050. A first set of papers explores the main factors affecting the demand for food (population growth, changes in consumption patterns, the effects on the food system of urbanization and the importance of understanding income distributions) with a second examining trends in future food supply (crops, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture, and 'wild food'). A third set explores exogenous factors affecting the food system (climate change, competition for water, energy and land, and how agriculture depends on and provides ecosystem services), while the final set explores cross-cutting themes (food system economics, food wastage and links with health). Two of the clearest conclusions that emerge from the collected papers are that major advances in sustainable food production and availability can be achieved with the concerted application of current technologies (given sufficient political will), and the importance of investing in research sooner rather than later to enable the food system to cope with both known and unknown challenges in the coming decades. © 2010 The Royal Society.