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This study aims to clarify the methods used and the assumptions made in the FAO world food projections, which forecast the need for a 70 % production increase between 2005/07 and 2050, as well as to discuss the implications of this figure. We find that the FAO projections are based on solid analysis and an enormous amount of expert knowledge and country specific data, yet the assumptions and underlying methodology are poorly documented.
Furthermore, the FAO’s strong focus on increasing production in contrast to other options for improving the world food balance, especially in the communication of the analysis to the public, is unbalanced. Alongside productivity increases, the reduction of political support for biofuel production, the reduction of postharvest losses and a less meat based diet in industrialized countries should be explored. Political support for first generation biofuels should be ended. This option could be easily implemented and would have direct and significant effects on the world food balance. A literature review suggests that there is significant scope and need for reducing postharvest losses in developing and developed countries. Current postharvest loss levels are estimated at 20–50 %, with supply chain losses the dominant form of loss in develop ing countries and food waste at the retail and household levels dominating in indus- trialized countries. Lowering meat demand in industrialized countries would have positive effects on human health and the environmental goods. Furthermore, it would result in lower climate gas emissions and ease the introduction of higher animal welfare standards. Finally, they would improve the world food balance and result in substantially lower meat prices but only slightly reduced cereal prices. Last but not least, it is important to note that the global availability of food is not the most relevant limitation in the reduction of undernourishment, but rather it is the persistence of poverty which causes undernourishment in a world which could feed 9 billion.