PLoS ONE (Jan 2020)

Exploring the future of land use and food security: A new set of global scenarios.

  • Olivier Mora,
  • Chantal Le Mouël,
  • Marie de Lattre-Gasquet,
  • Catherine Donnars,
  • Patrice Dumas,
  • Olivier Réchauchère,
  • Thierry Brunelle,
  • Stéphane Manceron,
  • Elodie Marajo-Petitzon,
  • Clémence Moreau,
  • Marc Barzman,
  • Agneta Forslund,
  • Pauline Marty

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 15, no. 7
p. e0235597


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Facing a growing and more affluent world population, changing climate and finite natural resources, world food systems will have to change in the future. The aim of the Agrimonde-Terra foresight study was to build global scenarios linking land use and food security, with special attention paid to overlooked aspects such as nutrition and health, in order to help explore the possible future of the global food system. In this article, we seek to highlight how the resulting set of scenarios contributes to the debate on land use and food security and enlarges the range of possible futures for the global food system. We highlight four main contributions. Combining a scenario building method based on morphological analysis and quantitative simulations with a tractable and simple biomass balance model, the proposed approach improves transparency and coherence between scenario narratives and quantitative assessment. Agrimonde-Terra's scenarios comprise a wide range of alternative diets, with contrasting underlying nutritional and health issues, which accompany contrasting urbanization and rural transformation processes, both dimensions that are lacking in other sets of global scenarios. Agrimonde-Terra's scenarios share some similarities with existing sets of global scenarios, notably the SSPs, but are usually less optimistic regarding agricultural land expansion up to 2050. Results suggest that changing global diets toward healthier patterns could also help to limit the expansion in agricultural land area. Agrimonde-Terra's scenarios enlarge the scope of possible futures by proposing two pathways that are uncommon in other sets of global scenarios. The first proposes to explore possible reconnection of the food industry and regional production within supranational regional blocs. The second means that we should consider that a 'perfect storm', induced by climate change and an ecological crisis combined with social and economic crises, is still possible. Both scenarios should be part of the debate as the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic shows.