WEF explores the future of ‘uncertain’ food system

A fundamental transformation of existing food systems will be necessary before 2030 to ensure the world's ability to meet human needs within environmental constraints, according to a recent analysis from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

A fundamental transformation of existing food systems will be necessary before 2030 to ensure the world’s ability to meet human needs within environmental constraints, according to a recent analysis from the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Prepared in collaboration with Deloitte Consulting, “Shaping the Future of Global Food Systems” explores various scenarios to address growing food demand in the face of the need to feed 8.5 billion people by 2030.

“An observer focused entirely on challenges in food systems might say ‘the future is bleak’; whereas one focused on innovations to meet the SDGs [sustainable development goals] might say ‘the future is bright,'” the report’s authors wrote. “Neither perceives the whole picture; a more accurate observation might be that ‘the future is uncertain.'”

The report explores new technologies and climate change to inspire new thinking and problem solving in order to create what is described as, ideally, an inclusive, sustainable, efficient and healthy global food system.

The four distinct scenarios, ranging from optimistic to pessimistic, include “Survival of the Richest,” which presents a world characterized by low global growth, disconnected markets and economic inequality. On the opposite end of the spectrum is “Open-Source Sustainability,” the most hopeful scenario, which envisions a food system shaped by free trade and an embrace of technology that leads to record-low levels of food waste and malnutrition.

“Many of the policy and business decisions affecting food systems today appear to be driven by short-term thinking and reactions to ongoing events,” the report states. “However, transforming a complex system over multiple years will require an opposite mindset.”

The remaining scenarios fall somewhere in between. “Unchecked Consumption” focuses on the environmental costs associated with a continuation of current demand trends, while “Local is the New Global” presents a world of efficient but fragmented markets in some regions and growing levels of scarcity, unrest and migration in others.