The world’s leading water scientists believe that a growing population and a scarcity of water could force more people into adopting vegetarian diets. Research indicates that humans derive 20% of their protein from animal-based products, but that the number will drop to 5% by 2050 when there is an extra two-billion people expected to be alive.
Malik Falkenmark and colleagues at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) state in the report, “There will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected nine-billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in Western nations.”
Water scarcity has already been contributing to a global food crisis. A drought in Western Africa has caused food shortages leaving nearly 18 million people hungry across eight countries. Weak monsoon rains in Asia and severe droughts in the US and Russia have caused prices of staple foods like corn and wheat to skyrocket on the international market.
Food price increases and shortages of staple foods have been directly linked to civil unrest. In 2008, food shortages contributed to civil unrest in 28 countries. Oxfam believes that a price spike would have a devastating impact in developing countries.
Scientists at SIWI said that one option to increase the amount of water available is to adopt a vegetarian diet. According to the report, one third of the world’s arable land is used to grow crops to feed animals and those crops consume five to ten times more water than a vegetarian crop. Anders Jagerskog, editor of the report, said, “We will need a new recipe to feed the world in the future.”
The report from SIWI and another report from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) have been released a the start of the annual world water conference in Stockholm, Sweden. Over 2000 politicians, UN bodies, researchers, and non-governmental groups from 120 countries will participate in an open platform discussion to address water and food security issues facing the world.
A vegetarian diet could be the best solution to the increasing water scarcity problem the world is facing. It would mean that the crops grown would be used to feed people instead of feeding livestock before the livestock fed people.