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Analyzing How Plant-Based Businesses Can Help To Feed 10 billion People by 2050

By 2050 the global population is set to reach 10 billion people; there is a significant shortfall between the amount of food available today and the amount needed to feed that many people in the future. A plant-based food system has frequently been suggested as a less taxing solution for the planet as it requires fewer resources compared to raising and feeding livestock.

Population growth is not a new phenomenon or problem; however, due to the unsustainable nature of animal agriculture, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sustain a population that continues to grow. The animal agricultural industry is inefficient regarding land usage and requires substantial government bailouts to stay financially afloat.

A Plant-Based Food System

In 2018, The World Resources Institute created a five-step plan to address the issue of feeding the population. The first two points directly engage with the benefits of plant-based eating. The institute suggests that the demand for food should be reduced by managing waste and consuming a more sustainable diet. Secondly, food production should be increased without expanding agricultural land. This would lead to a sustainable food future.

Although the institute champions reducing the consumption of animal products on environmental grounds, unfortunately, it does not recognize that an entirely plant-based food system is the future. This is problematic, especially when considering the levels of waste and inefficiency involved in the animal agriculture industry. George Monbiot, however, takes a much more direct approach when discussing the issue; he uses data to highlight just how many people could be fed on a new system.

Monbiot calculates in his article for the Guardian that Britain alone could feed 200 million people on an entirely plant-based diet, which is over three times its current population. To achieve this, a more efficient system needs to be adopted, one that would see the consumers eat the grains and pulses themselves rather than feed them to livestock. This would free up large amounts of land for nature and allow the growing population in Britain to be accommodated. Simply put, more land would be available because fewer crops would need to be grown if they were eaten directly. A plant-based system is undoubtedly the solution to feeding a growing population.

Feeding The Population

This also applies to a global population that exceeded 8 billion people in 2022 and shows no signs of slowing down as it is estimated to reach 10 billion by 2050. Monbiot argues that there are enough calories to feed everybody on Earth, despite chronic hunger and poverty in parts of the world.

In his article, Monbiot writes that “almost half these calories are lost, mainly through feeding the food to farm animals, but also through using it for other purposes (such as biofuels) and through waste. Even so, in principle, there is more than enough for everyone, if it were affordable and well distributed.”

And this is the crux: it needs to be well distributed. Half the calories that are grown are fed to livestock. Rich nations claim to produce large quantities of meat themselves, but they only do so by importing huge quantities of grain. This is primarily soya from South America, which devastates the rainforest because of the huge quantities needed. This results in nations requiring vast amounts of land to grow crops for their food. This land requirement can be drastically reduced through plant-based eating.

What Can Businesses Do?

If the global population shifted to a plant-based diet, the global land use for agriculture would be reduced by 75%, according to Our World in Data. Because of this, we could sustain a much larger population and free up vast stretches of land that could be used for re-wilding. But how can plant-based businesses help with this switch? It is very clear from the data that they could feed a growing population with ease if they replaced the animal agricultural industry, but how can they establish that they must be the leading food supplier?

The value of the plant-based food industry will double to $92 billion by 2027, according to one report. The report also suggests that this increase is driven by heightened levels of food awareness, with environmental arguments at the front of consumers’ minds. The report states that new developments in the sector “emerge every year, paving the way for a global transition to a much more just, safe and sustainable food system.” This growth is expected to continue with a significant profit expected for the sector.

Plant-based businesses should actively lobby the government for change. They can highlight the humanitarian benefits of their products, along with the key fact that they do not need government bailouts to make a profit. Businesses can come together to form collectives; such was the case with the Plant Based Food Alliance in 2021. The alliance is a coalition of organizations in the UK that seek to place plant-based food alternatives at the center of a transition towards a sustainable food system. Similar alliances exist in Europe and America. Businesses should become active in such networks and work to create more change collectively, directly demonstrating to the government that they are the future.

Naturally businesses that are not already plant-based, as do farmers, need to make the switch. The campaigning group Viva! has several resources to help farmers make this switch themselves. Already plant-based businesses should carry on promoting their products in the global food market. Plant-based businesses must continue to grow and flood the market with their products. Only through this market’s continued growth can a growing population be sustained.

Sean Barrs
Sean is an activist and academic. He is researching his English Literature PhD thesis on the politics of diet. He is also an ultra-runner with a keen interest in everything plant-based. In the past, he has written for numerous publications including Plant Based News and The Vegan Review.