Ensuring healthy diets for an expected global population of nearly 10 billion people in 2050, while at the same time improving the world those people live in, will require sweeping changes to farming and how we produce food, according to a new report. “There is a pathway to achieve this but the challenge is even bigger than any of us thought,” said Richard Waite of the World Resources Institute (WRI) and co-author of “Creating A Sustainable Food Future: Final Report.”

Agriculture already uses almost half of the world’s vegetated land. It consumes 90 percent of all the water used by humanity and generates one-quarter of the annual global emissions that are causing global warming. And yet of the seven billion people living today, 820 million are undernourished because they don’t have access to—or can’t afford—an adequate diet. “We have to produce 30 percent more food on the same land area, stop deforestation, [and] cut carbon emissions for food production by two-thirds,” says Waite in an interview.

All of that must be done while reducing poverty levels and the loss of natural habitat, preventing freshwater depletion, and cutting pollution as well as other environmental impacts of farming. “There is no silver bullet; To prevent more land from being converted into agriculture requires major improvements in feed quality and grazing management. It also requires finding ways to get more than one crop harvest per year, and requires better crop breeding techniques. For example, CRISP-R technology enables the fine tuning of genes to maximize yields. we need to do everything,” Waite says.

The “everything” Waite referred to are 22 solutions detailed in the 565 page report, all of which need to be implemented to some degree, depending on the country and region. Here are a few of the proposed solutions:

• Dramatically reduce the estimated one-third of food that is lost or wasted. From scaling up solar-powered cold-storage units on farms, to using natural compounds that inhibit bacterial growth and retain water in the fruit in order to extend shelf life at retail stores, improvements can be made all along the supply chain.

• Shift the diets of high-meat consumers toward plant-based foods.Meat, particularly from cattle, sheep, and goats, is very resource intensive. For growing populations to have access to some meat, others will have to consume less. There are now burgers made up of 20 to 35 percent mushroom and all-plant burgers that taste as good as, if not superior to, all-beef burgers, the report notes. It also says governments provide nearly $600 billion in annual subsidies to agriculture and those that favor meat and dairy production should be phased out.

• Boost crop yields and dramatically increase the output of milk and meat. To prevent more land from being used for agriculture will need major improvements in feed quality and grazing management. It also requires finding ways to get more than one crop harvest per year, which in turn will require better crop breeding techniques. For example, CRISP-R technology enables the fine tuning of genes to maximize yields.

• Improve wild fisheries management and aquaculture. Overfishing can be reduced by eliminating much of the $35 billion in annual global fisheries subsidies. Certification and better enforcement to eliminate illegal and unreported fishing could save an estimated 11 to 26 million tons of fish lost to it. Aquaculture can include the use of algae, seaweed, or oil seeds-based fish foods rather than relying on small fish to feed larger ones like salmon.

Read the rest of the article at National Geographic