Food Security

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 221–233 | Cite as

Sustainable food production: constraints, challenges and choices by 2050

  • Fiona C. McKenzie
  • John Williams
Original Paper


The way we grow and consume food is changing both landscapes and societies globally. The constraints and challenges we face in meeting the anticipated large increase in global food demand out to 2050 are examined to show that while they present significant difficulties on many fronts, we have a large range of choices in the way this food demand might be met. Meeting this future food demand has frequently been articulated as a crisis of supply alone by some dominant institutions and individuals with prior ideological commitments to a particular framing of the food security issue. Our analysis indicates that the crisis can be avoided by the choices we make. The food security debate will be enriched by a rigorous evaluation of all these choices and recognition that the eventual solution will reside in a mixture of these choices. We could shift from our current paradigm of productivity enhancement while reducing environmental impacts, to a paradigm where ecological sustainability constitutes the entry point for all agricultural development. If we embraced this new paradigm, sustainable governance and management of ecosystems, natural resources and earth system processes at large, could provide the framework for practical solutions towards an intensification of agriculture. Such a paradigm shift could reposition world food production from its current role as the world’s single largest driver of global environmental change, to becoming a critical part of a world transition to work within the boundaries of the safe operating space for humanity with respect to the planet’s biophysical processes and functions.


Agricultural intensification Sustainability Paradigm shift Choices 2050 Food security 



This paper was part of a workshop sponsored by the OECD Co-operative Research Programme on Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and International Society for Plant Pathology 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Humanities and Social SciencesLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Crawford School of Public PolicyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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