UCSB ecology, evolution and marine biology graduate student Christian Balzer was one of 20 co-authors of a widely publicized report that outlines the development of environmentally sustainable food security plans.
A team of researchers from the United States, Canada, Sweden and Germany, led by director of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment Jonathan Foley, formulated the proposal for global sustainable agriculture to ensure that the world’s resources last until 2050. The group published their findings in a report titled “Solutions for a Cultivated Planet” on Oct. 12 and the research has since been featured in the New York Times, Nature and Scientific American.
According to Foley, the research provides tangible guidelines for reaching pressing goals in global sustainable development.
“For the first time, we have shown that it is possible to both feed a hungry world and protect a threatened planet,” Foley said in a press release. “It will take serious work. But we can do it.”
The group’s recommendations include halting tropical land clearing, encouraging farmers to use products such as fertilizer and insecticide with greater discretion, shifting the world’s dietary staples away from meat and reducing wasted food stemming from spoilage and pests.
Balzer said clearing tropical regions to increase farmable land causes excessive damage to the area’s ecosystem.
“The environmental costs of clearing tropical lands are not worth the return,” Balzer said. “It destroys biodiversity and has a detrimental impact on the future region.”
Balzer said though nearly 40 percent of Earth’s landmass is used for agriculture, much of it is in underdeveloped countries that lack the resources to efficiently farm the terrain.
“Most of the farmland is already being cultivated,” Balzer said. “In order to feed a projected nine billion people by the year 2050, we are going to have to increase crop yields.”
The report also encourages reducing the yield gaps between farmers in rich and poor countries by implementing more effective agricultural techniques.
According to Balzer, improving agricultural output will increase the livelihood of farmers living in less-developed nations.
“The more equitable the world will be in 2050, the more sustainable it will be,” Balzer said. “Equality and sustainability are two sides of the same coin.”