How to feed 9 billion people in 2050?

The question of the diet of men does not arise in a uniform way. Because throughout the world, our production and consumption patterns are different.

I – Case study : feeding men in Eastern Asia (China/Japan)

A – Ensuring food security in Japan1 – A very varied production, but strong constraints

Doc 1 : Gourmet solitaire (manga – 8 pages)


The issue of feeding people does not arise evenly. For the world, our ways of production and consumption are different.

=> Description of available food supply.

  • Distribution: cereals, vegetables, fruit, place of fish and fish products in general
  • very varied choice (even the hero does not know all the specialties)

=> Access to food is not a problem, (100 y ≈ 1 euro) when we know that 25% of the world’s population lives on less than 1 euro a day.

=> rich Food, varied and abundant in seafood

Unlike the other countries of the North (USA, Europe, Australia) the Japanese are not in a situation of overeating (average in the north 3 300 kca / hab / day, while 2,500 Kca / hab / day is enough for an average person – which is the case in Japan) due to this high consumption of fish and vegetables, while elsewhere a diet rich in meat and fat causes problems related to overweight especially in the poorest population.

Doc 2: Japan’s main agricultural products (source: ministry of agriculture, Japan, 2005)

Hokkaido (temperate) Rice, corn, barley, potatoes, onions, carrots, soy, sugar beet, dairy products
Honshu (temperate) North: rice

Center: rice, tea, mandarins, strawberries, cherries, grapes, peaches, apples, potatoes, wheat

South: rice, citrus

Kyushu (tropical) Rice, tropical fruits
Shikoku (tropical) Rice, tea, peaches, cucumbers, Peppers, eggplant, tomatoes


While the level of development is important in Japan, the constraints are very large (rare plains occupied by all activities (industry, ZIP, urbanization).

2 – A country facing global trade channels

=> The production system varies according to these natural constraints (fertile soils, climate) with a specialization of the places of production

=> However, local production is insufficient (it is said that Japan is forced to open) and imports are large

Doc 3: The main imported agricultural products and their origin




Japan’s food security is therefore ensured, even if local production is insufficient. Japan, a large consumer of food, concentrates high population densities. Located at the heart of the world economic circuits, the Japanese easily access resources. They can therefore import part of their food (imports financed by the exceptional share of trade and exports of manufactured goods).

Food availability exceeds the world average (2,500 Kca / day / day). For the record, what happens with food also happens with raw materials and energy.

« Food Mileage » is a product of two factors: the distance that food or animal feed travels from the site of production to the table, and the weight of the item. It is expressed in t・km (ton-kilometer). Generally, the longer the distance traveled, the greater fuel burned and CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. That generates a greater load on the environment.

Japan’s food mileage is also very high compared with that of other countries; approximately 3 times that of Korea and the Unites States, about 5 times that of Britain and Germany, and around 9 times that of France. The population of the U.S. is 2.2 times larger than that of Japan. Taking that into account, the food mileage per capita of the U.S. is less than 15% of that of Japan.

B – How to meet the food challenge in China?

  1. A stronger demographic pressure

A country with a traditionally prosperous agriculture, China was able to develop a dense rural population and large agglomerations very early on. The population has been growing very rapidly over the past 100 years. Like much of the world, China is indeed entering the demographic transition phase.

Doc 4: the demographic transition model


=> Today, natural increase is lower and the population aging. (Willingness to control births, single child policy, eg, but not only).

However, the Chinese population still accounts for 18% of the world’s population and continues to rise, although the fertility rate has increased from 7.57 children per woman in 1962 to 1.33 today)

2- Meeting food needs.

=> This situation increases the need for food, particularly in the poorest areas with high population growth (there is no applied policy of restricting births in western China) and in the Cities (+18 million migrants to cities each year).

=> The growth of agricultural production has been stronger than that of the population, overall

However the number of people suffering from undernourishment has been increasing steadily over the last twenty years. This paradox is linked to gross inequalities in access to and distribution of food distribution channels.

C – China and Japan facing the agricultural challenges of sustainable development.

1 – Intensive agriculture in China

Doc. 8 Intensive agriculture and food security

Agriculture produces enough to feed the majority of the population, with a good caloric diet and a satisfactory part of meat. To give an order of magnitude, let us specify that if the Chinese consume only about 170 kg of cereals per head per year, which is roughly the equivalent of India, they eat more than 50 kg of meat. After official statistics, ten times more than the Indians. This is the sign of a diet transition. The more China grows, the more direct consumption of cereals, wheat and rice will decline in favor of meat [and fats]. […]
If there had not been the Green Revolution, with irrigation that started in northern China in the 1970s, chemical fertilizers, dwarf wheat and rice varieties in the 1970s and today the hybrid varieties, China would never have known these high levels of production which make it possible to supply its population.

Aubert, Between fractures and mutation, what place for rural China? Coffee shops of Marciac, April 2005

=> Transition of the diet in progress or completed in the richest areas
=> With development, the population of China is approaching a Western mode of consumption
=> This is due to the modernization born of the green revolution (fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, increase of the arable surface, creation of wide openfields etc.)
This agriculture is part of the agri-food sector:

• chemical industries provide farmers (fertilizers, plant protection products), mechanical industries, modern agricultural machinery, research laboratories, seeds and seeds perform well;
• highly mechanized agricultural enterprises operate with very little labor (hence also the 18 million Chinese in the rural exodus every year). In addition, they use irrigation massively to improve their yields. The productivity of these enterprises is very high (the ratio between production and the means used to obtain it), as well as agricultural yields;
• production is mainly for the agri-food industry, which transforms agricultural products into consumables and supplies the distribution channel. But it is also exported.

But many problems remain. For by commercial agriculture, China has partially neglected the subsistence agriculture which nourishes the population. In addition, agricultural exports depend on international market prices and may compete with subsidized agriculture in rich countries.

2 – Japan chooses modernity

Doc 9 video vertical farms in Japon


=> The objectives
• a possible solution to the problems of japan and beyond hunger in the world, while creating local jobs and supplying fresh products to the local population.
• a solution to address the lack of arable land (because the vertical farm is generally thought of as being built in an urban fabric). This could reduce deforestation, desertification and, more generally, soil degradation
• a means of short-term and local recycling of certain solid organic wastes
• a means of reducing the ecological footprint of a neighborhood (or eco-neighborhood) by making it partly self-sufficient for food, and reducing the need for road or rail transport. By also reducing imports
• a contribution to the improvement of urban air quality (CO2 pump, production of native oxygen by crops)
• a decrease in agriculture’s contributions to climate change (permitted by lower carbon emissions or even a total lack of use of fossil fuels in the most advanced projects). Refrigeration requirements could also be greatly reduced by short loops (from producer to consumer). Plowing, heavy modes of planting and harvesting by machines dependent on fossil fuels would be eliminated.
• organic and local agriculture
• a means of reducing water consumption by agriculture
=> This type of agriculture requires a lot of investment. Only rich countries can resort to it. This is a relevant experience for Japan, for example, but not really shareable.

II – Putting perspective: Can we feed the whole planet?

There are about 7.3 billion men on the planet. In 2050, there will surely be 9 billion. Every year, there are 80 million more people on Earth. This large population faces three challenges
– The first is food self-sufficiency, as more than 850 million people suffer from hunger.
– The second challenge is to reconcile the citizens with a food of which they are suspicious.
– The third is to increase production while applying sustainable development

A – Facing the Food Challenge

1 – Access to food


=> Comparison of consumption and food budget of two families, one in Ecuador, the other in Germany testifies to the many inequalities that are established on a world scale.

Peter Menzel, from the book, « Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. »

Hungry Planet: What The World Eats

American photographer Peter Menzel and writer Faith D’Aluisio have traveled the world documenting that most basic of human behaviors—what we eat. Their project, “Hungry Planet,” depicts everything that an average family consumes in a given week—and what it costs. The pair released their book “Hungry Planet: What the World Eats” in 2005, showcasing meals in 24 countries.

The Ayme family of Tingo, Ecuador, was pictured with a haul of vegetables. The Natomo family of Kouakourou, in south-central Mali, sat for a portrait on the roof of their home with sacks of grains. And among the favorite foods listed by the Madsen family of Greenland was polar bear and the skin of a narwhal, or a medium-sized toothed whale.


2 – food transition

In the face of food needs, all countries have embarked on increasing food production for both poor and rich countries. By intensifying production through high yielding varieties of cereals, Third World countries can increase their agricultural yields in the face of rapidly increasing populations. India, Colombia and Viet Nam have embarked on this model of agricultural development. They cleared the forests. They used fertilizers, pesticides and high-yielding varieties.
Today, inequalities persist, but it can be observed that many countries have entered a phase of food transition
Note: Food transition: process of modification of diets where the calories of animal origin replace in increasing proportions calories of vegetable origin.

3 – Forms of malnutrition



More than 1.4 billion adults were overweight in 2008, and more than half a billion obese

In 2008, more than 1.4 billion adults were overweight and more than half a billion were obese. At least 2.8 million people each year die as a result of being overweight or obese. The prevalence of obesity has nearly doubled between 1980 and 2008. Once associated with high-income countries, obesity is now also prevalent in low- and middle-income countries. (

Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. A crude population measure of obesity is the body mass index (BMI), a person’s weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of his or her height (in metres). A person with a BMI of 30 or more is generally considered obese. A person with a BMI equal to or more than 25 is considered overweight.

Once considered a problem only in high income countries, overweight and obesity are now dramatically on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. The global epidemic of overweight and obesity – « globesity » – is rapidly becoming a major public health problem in many parts of the world. Paradoxically coexisting with undernutrition in developing countries, the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity is associated with many diet-related chronic diseases including diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension and certain cancers. (WHO 2010)

food11Source: WHO


Nauru 78.5%

Tonga 56.0%

Saudi Arabia 35.6%

United Arab Emirates 33.7%

United States 32.2%

Bahrain 28.9%

Kuwait 28.8%

Seychelles 25.1%

United Kingdom 24.2%

Prevalence of undernourishment (in %)

This is the main FAO hunger indicator. It measures the share of the population that consumes an amount of calories that is insufficient to cover the energy requirement for an active and healthy life (as defined by the minimum dietary energy requirement).

Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1 target achievement trajectories and actual progress on key indicators (poverty, undernourishment, underweight) for all developing regions, since 1990 – FAO (2013)


B – Ensuring food security

1 – Various forms of agriculture
The predominance of productivist agriculture / Countries in transition (= the green revolution)

The difficulties of food crops.
The northern countries experienced a very strong increase in productivity and returns due to massive investments. These northern agricultures are highly subsidized by the states (Europe: The CAP, USA: The Farm Bills).

A farmer in the Paris basin feeds 300 people but the countryside has lost the majority of its inhabitants due to mechanization

However, this agriculture also has problems. It has achieved self-sufficiency and has fallen into overproduction. Stocks are accumulating, export subsidies have to be paid. And Europeans are forced to change the CAP, and lower prices.
In southern countries, where the population is increasing, the challenge is to feed themselves. The majority of the production is consumed on the spot and the few surpluses are used to pay the imports, but also the debts. In the south, the majority of the population lives on agriculture.

The countries of the South are totally dependent on prices that fluctuate enormously. Moreover, there is no added value linked to the finished product (ie they do not transform the raw material, and are forced to sell at the price of the raw material.) Ex: Cocoa is sold without being transformed into a chocolate bar.)

With the globalization and spread of the Western way of life, there is a uniformization of tastes and productions.

Men, like animals consume a reduced number of cereals (wheat, corn, rice etc.). There is an increase in oilseeds (all oil and fat). There is also an increase in the consumption of meat, each country produces according to its prohibitions. The fishery has taken a very large extension and ecologists denounce the ravages of overfishing
2 – Various strategies for different temporalities

Food aid / import / acquisition of farmland abroad


Since 2008, the term “land grabbing” gained notoriety around the globe. It refers to large-scale land acquisitions mainly by private investors but also by public investors and agribusiness that buy farmland or lease it on a long-term basis to produce agricultural commodities. These international investors, as well as the public, semi-public or private sellers, often operate in legal grey areas and in a no man’s land between traditional land rights and modern forms of property. In many cases of land grabbing, one could speak of a land reform from above, or of the establishment of new colonial relationships imposed by the private sector.

For example, almost nine percent of Africa’s total area of arable land have changed owners since 2000. The largest land acquisitions are concentrated in countries with weak governance structures. In these countries, the proportion of hunger and malnutrition in the population is also very high, for example the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.

Only 10% of the agricultural projects listed by the Land Matrix are exclusively destined for food production. The more common objective of land acquisition is the cultivation of biofuels or energy crops for export, fibers, animal feed or traditional cash crops such as coffee, tea and tobacco

C – The search for solutions

1 – New forms of agricultural practices = GMO / sustainable

For many observers, the answer to these crises is to be found in agriculture that respects nature. In addition to the organic farming, other initiatives are emerging. Alterglobalists have successfully launched campaigns against GMOs and industrial junk food. Farmers regularly deliver consumers to reduce intermediaries. The European Union imposes ecological criteria on farmers. There is a decoupling between production and subsidy to promote environmental agriculture.

2 – New modes of consumption.