More than four billion people could be overweight by 2050, with 1.5 billion of them obese if the current global dietary trend towards processed foods continues, a first-of-its-kind study predicted on Wednesday.
Warning of a “mind-boggling” health and environmental crisis, experts from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIC) said global food demand would jump by 50 percent by the middle of the century, pushing the Earth’s capacity to sustain nature.
Food production already accounts for three-quarters of the world’s fresh water and a third of its land – and accounts for up to a third of greenhouse gas emissions.
Providing a long-term overview of changing eating habits worldwide between 1
They found that “business as usual” – a continuation of current trends – is likely to see more than four billion people, or 45 percent of the world’s population, overweight by 2050.
The model predicts that 16% will be obese, compared to nine percent currently among 29% of the overweight population.
“Growing food losses and increasing consumption of animal protein mean that the environmental impact of our farming system will spiral out of control,” said Benjamin Bodirski, lead author of the study, published in Nature Scientific Reports.
“Whether it’s greenhouse gases, nitrogen pollution or deforestation: we’re expanding the boundaries of our planet – and transcending them.”
While trends vary across regions, the authors say global eating habits are moving away from plant-based and starchy diets to richer diets high in sugar, fat and animal foods, including highly processed foods.
At the same time, the study found that as a result of growing inequality, along with food waste and losses – food that is produced but not consumed due to lack of storage or over-purchase – about half a billion people will still be malnourished by the middle of the century. .
“There is enough food in the world – the problem is that the poorest people on our planet simply do not have the income to buy it,” said co-author Prajal Pradhan.
“And in rich countries, people don’t feel the economic and environmental consequences of wasting food.”
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned in a special report last year that humanity would face increasingly painful trade-offs between food security and rising temperatures over decades, unless emissions are limited and unsustainable agriculture and deforestation stopped.
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