A new study on food security says that if crops around the globe were grown in a more efficient manner, they could feed over three billion more people.
The study — published Thursday in the journal Science — looked at the waste the happens while crops are grown and once they make it to consumers. Around the world, more than 50 percent of fertilizer used for crops goes to waste, as does 60 percent of the nitrogen and 50 percent of the phosphorus applied. Eight to 15 percent of water used in irrigation could be saved with more precise watering, and one-third to one half of crops that make it to consumers are squandered due to weak infrastructure in poorer countries and bad habits (like buying extra food that isn't needed) in richer countries.
The study concludes that countries like India, China, the United States, Brazil, and Indonesia need to focus on growing such staples as wheat and rice, and everyone needs to take steps to reduce waste.
Paul West, a food expert at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, hopes that the study will help policymakers improve the way crops are grown. "Sustainably feeding people today and in the future is one of humanity's grand challenges," he told The Guardian. "Agriculture is the main source of water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and habitat loss, yet we need to grow more food." He wants people to focus on crops and techniques with "the most to be gained."