Too little focus on diets and population growth

In recent decades, research on how to nourish the global population sustainably has had a strong and growing focus on improving productivity through technology, but has largely ignored aspects of dietary patterns and population growth. This was what a recent Swedish study concluded after analysing decades of scientific articles on how to feed the world. Studies that investigate how a shift in consumption patterns, e.g. shifting from a meat-heavy diet to less resource-intensive diets, would affect the global food supply have been constantly underrepresented in the research, while the effects of population growth have shifted from being the dominant focus in 1969 to being the least common focus today. The authors suggest that this is in line with prevailing ideas in politics, which spills over into scientific research. One example is that the fear of being accused of paternalism been identified as a barrier to targeting people’s individual behaviour, such as dietary patterns.

It is true that a growing global population taken together with the shift to resource-intensive diets leads to a need for higher productivity in agriculture, but the authors stress that a focus on productivity alone is not enough to arrive at sustainable solutions on how to feed the world. There is a need for a more holistic approach to solve future challenges of global food security.

Source: Tamburino, Lucia., Bravo, Giangiacomo., Clough, Yann., Nicholas, Kimberly A. (2020). From population to production: 50 years of scientific litterature on how to feed the world. Global Food Security, vol 24. DOI:

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