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Combating Desertification and Drought Eat Plants, Save the Planet

While the modern agricultural system has helped stave off famines and feed the world’s 7 billion residents, the way we eat and produce food is posing a threat to future populations’ food security.

With an expected increase in population to 10 billion in 2050, ensuring food security is more important than ever.

However, current food production is among the largest sources of environmental degradation across the world.

If such production and consumption patterns continue, we will soon exceed our planetary boundaries such climate change and land use needed to survive and thrive.

“It was quite dramatic to see how much those planetary boundaries would be exceeded if we don’t do anything,” said Marco Springmann, one of the authors of a report examining the impact of the food system on the environment. 

“The food system puts pressure on land management, in particular deforestation. If you knock down too many forests, you basically really mess up the regulating system of the ecosystem because forests store carbon dioxide but they also are habitats for wild species and biodiversity reservoirs,” he added.

Over 40 percent of the world’s land has been converted or set aside for agriculture alone. This has resulted in the loss of more than half of the world’s forests.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) notes that commercial agriculture is a key driver, especially the production of beef, soy beans, and palm oil.

This can be seen in the Amazon where trees have been cut down and land converted to make way for agricultural activities such as cattle ranching and soy cultivation, much of which is used as animal feed rather than for human consumption.

In fact, half of the planet’s usable land surface is devoted to livestock or the growing of feed for those animals, an area equivalent to North and South America combined.

The intensive use of fertilisers has further diminished land productivity, leading to degradation and even desertification.

Moreover, such actions have contributed significantly to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

According to the “Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits” report, published in the Nature journal, the food system emitted over 5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2010 alone. read the full text article from ResearchGate here