Wednesday, August 4, 2010 - 9:55 AM

SYMP 10-5: Feeding people and maintaining the planet: The 2050 challenge of freezing the footprint of food

Jason W. Clay, World Wildlife Fund


The world is finally waking up to the fact that we live on a finite planet. WWF’s Living Planet Index suggests that we are currently at 1.3 planets, exceeding the Earth’s carrying capacity. By almost any measure, producing food has the largest impact of any human activity. As we are already beyond the carrying capacity of the planet, we must Freeze the Footprint of Food. Most estimates suggest that we will need to produce twice as many calories on the same amount of land we use today if we want to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem functions. Moreover, we know that what may be sustainable with 6.7 billion people will not be sustainable with 9 billion people that consume twice as much.

No single strategy and no single actor or sector will be sufficient to address this issue. Two key issues arise—“Who needs to be involved?” and “What are the ‘food wedge’ strategies, each contributing somewhat, that will collectively allow us to produce food for all and yet maintain the planet?


Neither NGOs nor academics shape global food systems. To do that we must engage the private sector. WWF is implementing a strategy with the 100 global companies that are the most important in changing the way we produce 15 key commodities. We help companies and producers align incentives throughout supply chains to ensure long-term partnerships.

We cannot achieve our conservation goals if we do not halt the expansion of agriculture into the remaining natural habitat on the planet. WWF has identified 10 “food wedges” that will allow us to produce enough food for all and still have a living planet. These strategies focus on genetics, target crops, better practices, rehabilitation of degraded land, technology, property rights, waste and post harvest losses, overconsumption and carbon. These strategies will allow us to increase food production while simultaneously reducing its footprint.

There is no single silver bullet, but there is something that everyone and every institution can do. Likewise, we cannot work on everything—we must be strategic. Dr. Clay will talk about WWF’s efforts to partner with the private sector and others to Freeze the Footprint of Food.