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Feeding the world without destroying the planet. 

By 2050, the human population will hit 10 billion. It’s a staggering amount of people. How do we feed all of them without destroying our planet?

It’s a difficult question to answer. Agriculture is already impacting our earth in many ways:

  • It uses almost 50% of the world’s vegetated land. 
  • It consumes 90% of all the water used by humanity.
  • It generates 1.4% of the global emissions that cause global warming.

Despite this, 820 million people are undernourished because they don’t have access to – or can’t afford – a healthy, nutritious diet. 

It’s a worrying situation we find ourselves in. According to Richard Waite of the World Resources Institute (WRI), the co-author of Creating A Sustainable Food Future: Final report, to feed the human population without harming the planet, we have to:

"… produce 30% more food on the same land area, stop deforestation, [and] cut carbon emissions for food production by two-thirds. All of that must be done while reducing… the loss of natural habitat, preventing freshwater depletion, and cutting pollution as well as other environmental impacts of farming."

It is against this backdrop that Knorr Professional and World Wildlife Fund UK have partnered to produce the Future 50 Foods report*

Knorr Professional and WWF’s Future 50 Foods Report

In an effort to ensure there are enough resources for us all, and for future generations, we need to change the ways we look at, and produce food. That’s why Knorr Professional and WWF have co-authored a report that identifies 50 plant-based, future-facing foods that we should embrace for our health and the health of the planet. Consisting of vegetables, grains, cereals, seeds, nuts and legumes, the report has been developed to inspire greater variety in what we cook and eat. 

The Future 50 Foods report is intended to enable three important dietary shifts. First, a greater variety of vegetables to increase intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Second, plant-based sources of protein to replace meat, poultry and fish, resulting in reduced negative impact on our environment. Third, more nutrient-rich sources of carbohydrates to promote agrobiodiversity and provide more nutrients. 

Adding Diversity to Monotonous Diets

Today, our diets are arguably the most monotonous they’ve been in human history.

Did you know, for example, that just 3 foods – wheat, rice and maize – make up 60% of our plant-based diets?

In fact, experts state that although there are between 20 000 and 50 000 known edible plants, humans are only consuming between 150 to 200 of them! The cultivation of single crops, known as monoculture farming, and our over-reliance on animal-based foods are threatening our food security and damaging our natural ecosystems. 

Expanding the variety of plant-based foods we grow and eat is therefore not only better for the earth, but also our health

This is where the Future 50 Foods come into play. The list combines familiar, yet underused, foods like lentils, quinoa and kale with lesser-known foods such as fonio, pumpkin flowers and cactus

Each food has been chosen based on their nutritional value, relative environmental impact, flavour, affordability, accessibility and acceptability. 

An article by Food24.com states that we can learn much from South Africa’s agricultural past. Our country has a rich history of foods that have slowly disappeared from our current diets:

"Crops rooted in traditional nutrition once again have a place on the plate of future generations. These include millet, cowpeas, bambara groundnut and mung beans, all crops that the South African department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have acknowledged as a growing interest by government and other stakeholders about the value of these crops to address food security and climate change."

Dr. Tony Juniper, Executive Director of Advocacy, WWF-UK said: "Many people assume it’s our energy and transport choices that cause the most serious environmental damage when, in fact, it’s our food that causes the biggest impact. This is why it’s vital we identify and put in place better ways to grow, distribute and consume food so that what we eat doesn’t cost the Earth. This is a complex task, but we must get chefs, retailers and the public fighting for their world by changing what’s on our plates."

The Future 50 Foods report hopes to inspire and encourage this change by shining the spotlight on the incredible variety of delicious and nutritious food at our fingertips. 

*Co-authored by Knorr Professional and the WWF-UK. Contributors: Dr. Adam Drewnowski, Bioversity International, Crops For the Future, EAT Foundation, Edelman Agency, Food and Land Use Coalition, Food Reform for Sustainability and Health (FReSH), GAIN, Global Crop Diversity Trust, Gro Intelligence, Oxfam GB, SDG2 Advocacy Hub, Wageningen University and Yolele Foods.