6 tips to feed the whole world

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is putting pressure on global food supplies. We can still feed the whole world, but then the supply must be carefully rethought. Knack explores the possibilities.

Ukraine and Russia together produce 14 percent of the world’s wheat. They account for a third of global wheat exports and no less than 60 percent of sunflower oil. In addition, Russia is a major producer of fertilizers. All that trade has largely stalled as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It is inevitable that the war will have an impact on the global food system. And it was already under severe pressure, mainly due to the consequences of global warming with its extreme weather conditions, such as prolonged drought.

It is not only the impending shortage of food supplies that is driving up prices. Sky-high energy costs also have an impact on food production, causing prices to rise even more. And then there are the harmful actions of speculators who artificially drive up the price and thus parasitize people who send them out into starvation. There are currently more than 800 million hungry people in the world and their numbers are steadily increasing.

26 countries, including Somalia, Egypt and Senegal, depend on 50 to 100% of their wheat from imports from Russia and Ukraine.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine affects not only Ukrainians and Russians, but also Syrians, Nigerians and Yemenis. Worldwide, 26 mainly poor countries, including Somalia, Egypt and Senegal, depend on 50 to even 100 percent of their wheat from imports from both warring countries. ‘The geopolitics of our food supply is suddenly much clearer than we could have ever imagined’, says a food researcher in the best scientific journal Nature. She fears unrest in those countries due to grain shortages.

Anyway, Nature that the world must be able to absorb the food opportunities that have suddenly disappeared. Global food supplies are large enough to provide enough food for everyone. However, the food system needs to be rethought. Crack examines some crucial steps.

1. Stop burning food

The magazine New scientist immediately after the Russian invasion of Ukraine launched an obvious opportunity to absorb a food shock: reorient grain crops now produced as biofuels against food supply. For Europe and the United States, the shift would be sufficient to absorb a grain shortage. Worldwide, 10 percent of grain production goes to biofuel production. The European Union is also pumping a quantity of palm oil into the production of biodiesel, which is comparable to what it needs in sunflower oil from Ukraine. ‘We literally burn a huge amount of food,’ says one scientist in the magazine.

10% of the production of grain goes to the production of biofuels.

Some opponents of the proposed adjustment (especially biofuel producers) suggest that biofuels may act as a barrier to absorbing rising energy prices. But independent analysts oppose it. The effect on prices would be marginal, just as the effect on the reduction of fossil fuel gas emissions would be marginal. “It’s really immoral that we want to solve an energy shortage through a process whereby we create a food shortage,” he said.

2. Grow more diverse crops

An analysis in Nature summarized how the food supply can be adapted so that we are less dependent on large-scale imports. It is important that we do not get stuck in production systems that already have a huge impact on the planet. Intensive agriculture is responsible for the largest loss of biodiversity in the world and for about a third of man-made global warming.

A greater diversity of crops increases the stability of food production in a country.

Agricultural production is now far too dependent on a small number of crops, such as wheat, rice, maize, soybeans and potatoes. A greater diversity of crops increases the stability of food production in a country. The effect would be of the same magnitude as the annual differences in the amount of rainfall – so significant. In the Great Food Crisis of 2008, global grain stocks covered nearly 18 percent of demand. Countries that had already invested more in the production of vegetables, nuts and fruits (such as bananas) were less affected by the famine crisis. Focus on diversity (almost) always pays off.

3. Stop food waste

It is generally accepted that one third of the food produced in the world is not consumed because it does not enter the market or is not consumed (and thus discarded). But according to a detailed analysis in PLoS One it is still more than a third because waste in families at home is systematically underestimated.

Of all the countries surveyed, Belgium was the largest waste.

Especially in the richer part of the world, where food usually does not take too big a bite of the family budget. The city’s residents also waste more than people in the countryside. Painfully, Belgium was the largest waste of all the countries surveyed (but infamous big players like the US were not included in the study due to lack of sufficiently solid data). More than half of the food waste in our country can be attributed to families.

4. Eat less meat

Intervening in meat production and consumption can have a major impact on food supply – this has been shown in many studies. A study in the medical journal The Lancet decided that a healthy consumption of red meat is limited to 14 grams a day, or a thick steak a month – today the average consumption of red meat in our regions is about 100 grams per person per day. Yet it seems like a utopia that we can keep people away from meat on a large scale. It is still too much associated with status and good nutrition for. In a temporary move, the consumption of more sustainable and healthier chickens and pigs could be promoted.

For your health, eat no more than one steak a month.

It must show up until artificial meat conquers the market. Think of steaks and burgers that are made from animal cells and that skip the animal’s environmentally harmful and often animal-unfriendly intermediate steps. It would have a huge beneficial impact, not only on global warming, but also on our food supply. According to Nature It takes 3 to sometimes 8 kg of grain to produce 1 kg of (real) meat – grain that is no longer available for human consumption. In Europe and the United States, up to 85 percent of grain yield goes to feed production. Replacing part of the meat consumption with plant-based foods can therefore make a significant difference in our dependence on foreign food chains.

A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences went even further. Vegetable production would provide up to twenty times more consumable protein per hectare of land than meat production – the study compared red meat with a mix of crops such as soy, potatoes, sugar cane and peanuts. Producing grain for human consumption instead of animal feed would provide 96 percent more nutritional value per day. earth unit. There are big differences.

5. Establish a UN panel on nutrition

If there were 10 billion people on the planet by 2050 – that’s a quarter more than today – then 50 percent more food would be needed (and if eating habits do not change drastically 70 percent more animal food). The impact of food production on global warming could then rise to no less than 70 percent (instead of 30 percent now). It is a great challenge to tackle this effectively. In addition, more and more people will live in the cities, which will put further pressure on the food supply.

The research focuses too much on large manufacturers. One third of food production comes from small farms.

The conversion process must be initiated on many levels. Analysts set Nature that there is an urgent need for an organization, similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): a global group of independent scientists advising the UN on global warming. A similar panel could issue reports on food supplies with proposals to make them more sustainable, both to ensure food security for as many people as possible and to limit the impact on the living environment.

It is important that the focus is not only on large agricultural lands and agricultural producers, but also on small farms of less than 2 hectares. These account for a third of world food production and are crucial for food supply in poor countries. Less than 5 percent of the scientific studies on food supply are relevant to these small farmers. The majority revolve around large producers of crops such as wheat and maize, which largely end up in animal feed.

Enter food taxes

Pricing is another way to adjust nutritional behavior. The price of healthy and environmentally friendly food should be lower than for fast foods high in fat and high in sugar – fast food makes obesity a more important problem than malnutrition in a growing part of the world. Adapting production systems (including through targeted health and environmental taxes, and by adapting the gigantic subsidy flows that are mainly pumped into our country’s agriculture) should speed up the transition to safer food for many people. Strange as it may sound, there are few studies that conclude that it is not possible to feed 10 billion people in a sustainable way. But on the condition that you tackle it effectively, at all levels, from rich to poor, from producer to consumer. The war in Ukraine may accelerate this process of efficiency.

Health and environmental taxes must make our food safer.

But you can already feel it splashing. The corona pandemic was also expected to lead to significant behavioral changes. The pandemic is not even over, or for many people it is already work as usual. As if there was nothing to learn from the crisis, which was the result of human pride, of living heavily beyond our capabilities. The idea that Ukraine can win the war against the Russians already removes the pressure from the food crisis. He does not want to see that he has to adjust his behavior: people are very good at it. Soon it goes completely wrong.


In the magazine Food waste management Dutch researchers looked at measures to prevent spillage. These relate to both the presentation in the store and the consumer’s buying behavior.

Make a shopping list. You waste less if you do not buy more than you actually need.

2. Learn to cook good food. What it means here: Learn to cook efficiently with leftovers instead of throwing them away.

Pack food in small quantities. Yes, that is possible packaging waste, but the environmental footprint of food production is always greater than that of packaging.

Invest in sustainable packaging procedures. For example, with farmed seaweed as a source of biodegradable packaging.

5. Eat at home. Eating out is even more wasteful than cooking at home, especially at cheaper restaurants that focus more on quantity than quality.

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