Study Reveals Not Enough Fruits, Vegetables Grown to Feed the Planet

Hidefumi grows apples using completely organic methods and no pesticides at all. (Image: JillWellington via Pixabay)

If everyone on the planet wanted to eat a healthy diet, there wouldn’t be enough fruit and vegetables to feed the planet, according to a new University of Guelph study. A team of researchers compared global agricultural production with nutritionists’ consumption recommendations and found a drastic mismatch.

Study co-author Prof. Evan Fraser, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and director of U of G’s Arrell Food Institute, said:

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The article has grabbed international headlines appearing in the Globe and MailNational PostHuffington PostCTV NewsYahoo News and more.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study calculated the number of servings per person on the planet for each food group based on Harvard University’s “Healthy Eating Plate” guide, which recommends that half of our diet consist of fruits and vegetables; 25 per cent, whole grains; and 25 per cent, protein, fat, and dairy.

Researchers calculated how much land is currently used for farming and how much would be needed if everyone followed the nutritional recommendations. They then projected those numbers for 2050, when the global population is expected to reach 9.8 billion.

They found that we now produce 12 servings of grains per person instead of the recommended 8; 5 servings of fruits and vegetables instead of 15; three servings of oil and fat instead of one; three servings of protein instead of five; and four servings of sugar instead of none. Fraser added:

Because carbohydrates are relatively easy to produce and can feed many people, developing countries focus on growing grains, said KC, lead author of the study. He said developed countries have subsidized grain and corn production for decades in order to become self-sufficient and to establish global leadership in their production.

These countries have also spent far more money on research and innovation for these crops than for fruits and vegetables. KC added:

The study found that adopting a more nutritious diet is not only good for us, but also good for the planet, with KC saying:

The researchers also found that shifting production to match nutritional dietary guidelines would require 50 million fewer hectares of arable land because fruits and vegetables take less land to grow than grain, sugar, and fat. But to achieve this decrease, consumers would need to eat less meat, and the agri-food sector would have to produce more plant proteins. Fraser explained:

More land needed to feed the planet

Without any change, feeding 9.8 billion people will require 12 million more hectares of arable land and at least 1 billion more hectares of pasture land, said Fraser, adding:

Provided by:  University of Guelph [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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