In a new report released by the Stockholm International Water Institute, leading water scientists report that only a drastic global reduction in meat production and consumption will forestall future food and water crises.
The report, entitled Feeding a Thirsty World: Challenges and opportunities for a food and water safe world, was released for the 2012 World Water Week. In the report, it is noted that today nearly one billion people suffer from hunger and thirst, despite the fact that per-capita food production has steadily increased for decades. In order to feed the projected additional 2 billion inhabitants of planet earth expected by mid-century, more efficient use of soil, water, and other food production resources must be made.
All food production consumes water, but the production of meat consumes disproportionate amounts. For example, a pound of beef takes approximately 1,800 gallons of water to produce. For this reason, the report concludes that the current levels of meat consumption are unsustainable and will lead to both water and food shortages. According to the report:
The analysis showed that there will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in Western nations (3,000 kcal produced per capita, including 20 per cent of calories produced coming from animal proteins). There will, however, be just enough water, if the proportion of animal based foods is limited to 5 per cent of total calories and considerable regional water deficits can be met by a well organised and reliable system of food trade.The report references previous research from the United Nations' Food & Agriculture Organization, on which the population projections are based. That 2006 report, Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental issues and options, discussed the negative impact of animal agriculture on global hunger and thirst, as well as the harmful environmental effects.
Both these reports from respected scientific and public policy organizations highlight the global impact of the "Western diet" and demonstrate that what we choose to eat has far-reaching consequences. Will we be facing massive famine and water shortages in 2050? Or will we choose to heed the warnings now and combat global hunger and thirst with a resource-efficient plant-based diet? You can make the choice to fight hunger today.