According to the latest findings, the world’s population may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic food shortages. Water scientists are concerned that as the global population increases by another two billion by 2050, there simply won’t be enough water to support cattle and so a bigger portion of our diet will have to come directly from crops. Animal protein-rich food consumes five to 10 times more water than a vegetarian diet. As it stands, 20% of the average human’s diet is animal based and this will have to drop to just 5% to feed the world’s growing population. Could you live on one quarter of the meat you are currently enjoying?
The report “Feeding a thirsty world: Challenges and opportunities for a water and food secure world”, which was issued by the Stockholm International Water Institute, states that to secure sufficient global food supplies drastic changes will have to be made to our eating behaviours.
“Feeding everyone well is a primary challenge for this century. Overeating, undernourishment and waste are all on the rise and increased food production may face future constraints from water scarcity,” said report editor Dr. Anders Jägerskog. “We will need a new recipe to feed the world in the future.” Speaking to The Guardian, Malik Falkenmark and colleagues at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) added: “There will be just enough water if the proportion of animal-based foods is limited to 5% of total calories and considerable regional water deficits can be met by a … reliable system of food trade.”
If these changes aren’t made, the report states that the current trends in food production could lead to increased shortages and intense competition for scare water resources in many regions across the world. Intense competition for scare resources has in fact already begun with many Middle Eastern countries buying up tracts of fertile land in African nations. Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar are all highlighted in the report as new investors of land due to the water shortages they are experiencing at home.
The stern report from SIWI comes hot on the heels of concerns raised by Oxfam and the UN that we may have to prepare for the second global food crisis in five years. Oxfam fears that a price spike will have a devastating impact on countries that rely heavily on food imports which includes the Middle East and North Africa. Food shortages in 2008 led to civil unrest in 28 countries including Egypt which saw demonstrators protesting the high cost of bread.
Image of raw vegetables via Shutterstock.com
For more on food and water shortages in the Middle East see: