It found that 25 percent of the world’s land is now “highly degraded,”
The United Nations has completed its first global assessment of the state of the planet’s land resources, finding in a report Monday that a quarter of all land is highly degraded and warning the trend must be reversed if the world’s growing population is to be fed.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that farmers will have to produce 70 percent more food by 2050 to meet the needs of the world’s expected 9 billion strong population. That amounts to 1 billion tons more wheat, rice and other cereals and 200 million more tons of beef and other livestock.
But as it is, most available land is already being farmed and in ways that often decrease its productivity through practices that lead to soil erosion and wasting of water.
That means that to meet the world’s future food needs, a major “sustainable intensification” of agricultural productivity on existing farmland will be necessary, the U.N. group said in the “State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture” report.
Director-General Jacques Diouf said increased competition over land for growing biofuels, coupled with climate change and poor farming practices, had left key food-producing systems at risk of being unable to meet human needs in 2050.
“The consequences in terms of hunger and poverty are unacceptable,” he said at the organization’s Rome headquarters. “Remedial actions need to be taken now. We simply cannot continue on a course of business as usual.”
The report was released Monday, as delegates from around the world meet in Durban, South Africa, for a two-week U.N. climate change conference aimed at breaking the deadlock on how to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.
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