A long-standing strategy to strengthen food security by increasing crop production, even if it means destroying forests, has recently come into the debate. Scientists say that the reality of destroying valuable forest ecosystems could have a disastrous effect and may not solve food security and nutrition problems.
“A rampant increase in agricultural production as the global population increases could encroach on nutritional food sources found in forests,” warned Terry Sunderland, a scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Nutritional foods found in forests including rodents, wild birds, and larger animals, as well as fruits, nuts, leaves, stems, and mushrooms are a source of micro-nutrients for many rural communities. Currently, there are 1 billion people in the world that depend on forests for their livelihood. Furthermore, when agricultural production slows and food prices soar, many people living in poverty rely on scavenging tactics and forest-meat to make up for the loss of regularly farmed foods.
According to U.N. data, the global population will rise from 7 billion to more than 9 billion by 2050. Consequentially, this increase will threaten the already high rates of deforestation in tropical regions as well as increasing threats to global health. In a 2011 report presented by PNAS, a 100 to 110 percent increase in global crop demand from 2005 to 2050 would result in the conversion of about 1 billion hectares (2.5 billion acres) of land for agricultural use and is projected to encroach upon forested or heavily treed land.
The current, prevailing view of food security focuses on eliminating global hunger no matter the costs to the natural environment. To protect the natural environment, a balance must be obtained in consideration of current obstacles to the food supply system including waste, overconsumption, post-harvest loss and unequal distribution. Further research will reveal exactly how forests contribute to food security and to the future of nutrition.