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'Radical' changes needed to meet rising food demands: UN

A new United Nations report calls for a 'green revolution' in agriculture, saying farmers must increase food production by as much as 100 percent by 2050.

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A farmer spreads fertilizer in a paddy field at Traouri village, located in the northern Indian state of Haryana on July 5.

Ajay Verma/Reuters

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The global food system is environmentally destructive and requires “radical” changes if it is to meet rising food demands, says a new United Nations report.

Current farming practices degrade the environment and contribute to global warming, which in turn reduces food production, according to the report. To feed a growing population, farmers around the world must increase food production by up to 100 percent by 2050 – but do so using sustainable methods, with a focus on small farming.

“The world now needs a truly green revolution in agriculture,” says the UN’s annual World Economic and Social Survey, which was released Tuesday.

Recent food shortages and price spikes highlight “deep structural problems” in the global food system, according to the report. Modern agriculture is plagued by over-cultivation, deforestation, and water pollution, the study says, which results in low crop yields.

These practices, combined with climate change and government polices, threaten almost two dozen nations with a “protracted food security crisis.” Worldwide, some 925 million people are undernourished, the report says, with the vast majority living in developing countries.

Meanwhile, the governments in these countries have done little to support the world’s 1.5 billion small farmers, who dominate agriculture in developing nations.

“There have been decades of underinvestment by the public sector,” says Manuel Montes, a UN economist and one of the survey authors. “Agricultural investment has to be revived in order to meet the demands of food production.”

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