Students Staff

11 November 2010

Feeding the World


One of the biggest challenges facing the world today is how to feed the expected population of nine billion by 2050.

Despite significant growth in food production over the past 50 years, it has been estimated the world needs to produce 70-100% more food to meet expected demand without significant increases in prices.

But the solution to this complex issue is not simply about maximising productivity. With additional challenges from climate change, water stresses, energy insecurity and dietary shifts, global agricultural and food systems will have to change substantially to meet the challenge of feeding the world.

A new paper published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability identifies the top 100 questions for the future of global agriculture.

A multi-disciplinary team of 55 agricultural and food experts from the world’s major agricultural organisations, professional scientific societies and academic institutions was appointed to identify the top 100 questions for global agriculture and food. They were drawn from 23 countries and work in universities, UN agencies, CG research institutes, NGOs, private companies, foundations and regional research secretariats.

An initial list of 618 key questions was, over the course of a year, whittled down by the team to the top 100.

If addressed and answered, it is anticipated these questions will have a significant impact on global agricultural practices worldwide. They offer policy and funding organisations an agenda for change. The questions are wide-ranging, are designed to be answerable and capable of realistic research design, and cover 13 themes identified as priority to global agriculture (see Notes).

Lead author, Professor Jules Pretty, of the University, said: “The challenges facing world agriculture are unprecedented and are likely to magnify with pressures on resources and increasing consumption.

“What is unique here is that experts from many countries, institutions and disciplines have agreed on the top 100 questions that need answering if agriculture is to succeed this century. These questions now form the potential for driving research systems, private sector investments, NGO priorities, and UN projects and programmes.”

Professor Sir John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Advisor and Head of the Government’s Foresight programme, said: “This paper and its lead author Jules Pretty have provided an important contribution to the Foresight project on Global Food and Farming Futures. This study poses the central question, how can a future global population of nine billion people be fed sustainably, healthily and equitably. The project will publish its findings in January 2011.”


Notes to Editor

1. To interview Professor Jules Pretty please contact the University Communications Office on 01206 872400 or e-mail

2. This research forms one part of the UK Government’s Foresight Global Food and Farming Futures project. The project will publish its findings in January 2011. The Foresight Programme is part of the UK's Government Office for Science. It helps Government think systematically about the future and uses the latest scientific and other evidence to provide signposts for policymakers in tackling future challenges. Government Office for Science supports the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser in ensuring that the Government has access to, and uses, the best science and engineering advice. It is located within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Further details about the project can be found on the Foresight website ( or contact the BIS press office (

3. The full paper is available free to access at It is available free of charge so that readers and researchers across the world can download the paper.

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