Alternative Futures for Global Food and Agriculture

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We face the challenges of developing a global food system that will feed a growing and more affluent population while preserving sensitive ecosystems, competing for limited natural resources, increasing agricultural productivity growth while mitigating and adapting to climate change and other threats, and contributing to rural area well-being.

This report develops three contrasting scenarios to illustrate alternative futures, based on several global economic models and extensive discussions with relevant stakeholders, and outlines policy considerations to help ensure that future needs are met in an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable manner.  The scenarios highlight the fundamental uncertainties surrounding forward-oriented decision making, and point to the crucial importance of international co-operation across multiple policy areas.

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Key trends and long-term scenarios: Framing the future of food and agriculture

Three key trends currently frame the future challenges facing our food and agriculture systems: growing and shifting food demand, constraints upon natural resources, and agricultural productivity uncertainties resulting from climate change. The choices made by policy makers and businesses today will be pivotal in determining the extent to which global food and agriculture systems will be impacted by these trials. Nevertheless, the uncertainties which surround future challenges pose substantial obstacles to the formulation of policy and industry strategies that will be effective across a range of scenarios in the long run. While scenario analysis does not present “forecasts” and is subject to numerous caveats, it can provide a useful alternative approach to dealing with an inherently uncertain future. This chapter presents three long-term scenarios for the world in 2050 – Individual, Fossil Fuel- Driven Growth; Citizen-Driven, Sustainable Growth; and Fast, Globally-Driven Growth – and explores the agricultural markets within these alternative “futures”.

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