By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach with information sourced Science Daily
Last week the news was full of stories about lab-grown meat: burgers and steaks grown in a laboratory which even bleed like real meat. Start-up companies around the world are looking at how to feed man's increased appetite for meat and although this man-made meat is super-expensive it's unlikely to be very long before it's affordable to everyone at less cost to the environment.
But while all eyes are on meat, what about fruit and vegetables?
According to a study late last year, if everyone on the planet wanted to eat a healthy diet, there wouldn't be enough fruit and vegetables to go around. The team of researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada compared the global agricultural production with nutritionists' consumption recommendations and found a drastic mismatch. The global agriculture system currently overproduces grains, fats and sugars, while production of fruits and vegetables is not sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the current population.
The researchers also found that shifting production to match nutritional dietary guidelines would require 50 million fewer hectares of arable land, because fruits and vegetables take less land to grow than grain, sugar and fat.
"We simply can't all adopt a healthy diet under the current global agriculture system," said study co-author Prof. Evan Fraser, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security "Results show that the global system currently overproduces grains, fats and sugars, while production of fruits and vegetables. "
The study calculated the number of servings per person on the planet for each food group based on the Harvard University's "Healthy Eating Plate" guide, which recommends that half of our diet consist of fruits and vegetables; 25 per cent, whole grains; and 25 per cent, protein, fat and dairy.
Researchers calculated how much land is currently used for farming and how much would be needed if everyone followed the nutritional recommendations. They then projected those numbers for 2050, when the global population is expected to reach 9.8 billion.
They found that we now produce 12 servings of grains per person instead of the recommended eight; five servings of fruits and vegetables instead of 15; three servings of oil and fat instead of one; three servings of protein instead of five; and four servings of sugar instead of none.
"What we are producing at a global level is not what we should be producing according to nutritionists," said Fraser, "Because carbohydrates are relatively easy to produce and can feed many people, developing countries focus on growing grains".
The study found that adopting a more nutritious diet is not only good for us but also good for the planet. By shifting production to match nutritional dietary guidelines would require 50 million fewer hectares of arable land, because fruits and vegetables take less land to grow than grain, sugar and fat.
But to achieve this decrease, consumers would need to eat less meat, and the agri-food sector would have to produce more plant proteins.
Without any change, feeding 9.8 billion people will require 12 million more hectares of arable land and at least one billion more hectares of pasture land, said Fraser.
"Feeding the next generation is one of the most pressing challenges facing the 21st century. For a growing population, our calculations suggest that the only way to eat a nutritionally balanced diet, save land and reduce greenhouse gas emission is to consume and produce more fruits and vegetables as well as transition to diets higher in plant-based protein."
SOURCE : University of Guelph. "Not enough fruits, vegetables grown to feed the planet." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October 2018. .
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