The growing demand for food across the globe has driven the need for deforestation, a notion challenged by a team of researchers in Vienna. They found that enough food can be produced to feed the world population until at least 2050 without the need to convert forests into agricultural land, but there's a catch - everyone should go vegan.

A team of researchers from the Institute of Social Ecology has found that it is possible to produce adequate food for the entire world population without cutting down more trees.

The only way to make sure there is enough food in the next three decades is if the world turns vegan by cutting meat from the diet and eating organic products. This transition may not only help save the forests across the globe but also promotes a healthier lifestyle.

Shifting to lower meat consumption, vegetarianism, and lower-yield organic farming techniques, could help produce enough food for the growing world population, the researchers found.

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation and habitat loss with 50 percent of the world's land dedicated to livestock growing. The amount of land needed to support the growing population will increase, which means that the more people living on the planet, the more land needed for food. This results to cutting down trees and converting forests into agricultural lands.

The team considered several factors including agricultural technology, various livestock systems, extent of land used as cropland and the types of human diets. The results showed that about 60 percent of the 500 scenarios could be possible options.

They looked at the projected worldwide population by 2050 and evaluated the remaining options to ensure ample supply of food to meet the demands, without compromising current forests.

"According to our analysis, human nutritional behaviour is the most important component. If the world's population followed a vegan diet, all combinations of parameters, even those with lowest yield levels and low cropland expansion, would be feasible," Karlheinz Erb, lead author of the study, said

"With a vegetarian diet, 94 per cent of all of our calculated scenarios would be feasible," he added.

Though a shift of the world's population into a vegan diet may not be realistic, the study shows the impact of diets on the future.

"The real war against climate change is being fought on our plates, multiple times a day with every food choice we make," said Nil Zacharias, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of One Green Planet

"One of the biggest challenges facing our planet, and our species is that we are knowingly eating ourselves into extinction, and doing very little about it," he added.

The study was published online in Nature. 

Photo: Richard Masoner | Flickr 

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