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Water scarcity could make world go vegetarian by 2050

Leading water scientists have issued one of the sternest warnings yet about global food supplies, saying that the world’s population may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages.

world Updated: Aug 28, 2012 01:54 IST

Leading water scientists have issued one of the sternest warnings yet about global food supplies, saying that the world’s population may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages.

Humans derive about 20% of their protein from animal-based products now, but this may need to drop to just 5% to feed the extra 2 billion people expected to be alive by 2050, according to research by some of the world’s leading water scientists. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/8/28-08-12-pg-17a.jpg

“There will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends towards diets common in western nations,” the report by Malik Falkenmark and colleagues at the Stockholm International Water Institute said.

“There will be just enough water if the proportion of animal-based foods is limited to 5% of total calories.”

Dire warnings of water scarcity limiting food production come as Oxfam and the UN prepare for a possible second global food crisis in five years. Prices for staples such as corn and wheat have risen nearly 50% on international markets since June, triggered by severe droughts in the US and Russia, and weak monsoon rains in Asia.

Oxfam has forecast that the price spike will have a devastating impact in developing countries that rely heavily on food imports, including parts of Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East.

Adopting a vegetarian diet is one option to increase the amount of water available to grow more food in an increasingly climate-erratic world, the scientists said. Animal protein-rich food consumes five to 10 times more water than a vegetarian diet. One third of the world’s arable land is used to grow crops to feed animals.

Other options to feed people include eliminating waste and increasing trade between countries in food surplus and those in deficit.