The Sustainability 2050 Challenge: Meeting the Environmental, Nutritional, Social and Economic Needs of a Growing World RELEASED AT THE 2011 IFT ANNUAL MEETING & FOOD EXPO

June 13, 2011

NEW ORLEANS – Feeding an estimated 9 billion people by the year 2050 will require a sustainable food system that makes the most of limited resources while protecting the world's fragile ecosystem, according a symposium at the 2011 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo®.

"What we do in the next 10 years will set the stage for the next 50 years," said Andrew Henderson, Ph.D., professor and area director, Center for Agriculture and Rural Sustainability at the University of Arkansas.

Among the challenges to a sustainable world food system include limited land availability, soil health, water scarcity, an uncertain supply and dependence on energy, climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. "We are going to have to produce 50 to 100 percent more fuel, food and fiber from the same land over the next 50 years. We need to do this while preserving the world's biodiversity. If not, our very system of being will be endangered," said Henderson.

Jennifer Wilkins, Ph.D., Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University, said "a whole diet approach" to sustainability looks at how much land is required to produce food based on different dietary scenarios. Communities, she said, consider their "foodprint" – the amount of land required to support one person on a specific diet in a specific geographic region for one year. Local food systems, said Wilkins, are more economically viable, requiring less transportation and energy. 

According to Professor Wilkins, a sustainable food system considers which foods are essential, which foods are luxuries, and how food is transported, processed and packaged. A sustainable food system limits waste and optimizes land usage. Vegetarian diets, and those with limited meat and dairy, can feed the most people.

"The key is balancing nutrition and environmental costs," said Adam Drewnowski, Ph.D, M.A., University of Washington Center for Obesity Research. "Energy dense foods – those with high-sugar and high-calories – are often more cost effective, but not efficient."

"Low-cost diets tend to be energy dense but nutrient poor," said Drewnowski. "Sustainable diets must be high in nutrition, socially acceptable and not deplete the planet's resources."

EDITOR'S NOTE: As an additional related resource, the Institute of Food Technologists developed a white paper, Feeding the World Today and Tomorrow, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. This link provides more information:


About IFT

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a nonprofit scientific society. Our individual members are professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT's mission is to advance the science of food, and our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, contributing to healthier people everywhere.

For more than 70 years, the IFT has been unlocking the potential of the food science community by creating a dynamic global forum where members from more than 100 countries can share, learn, and grow. We champion the use of sound science across the food value chain through the exchange of knowledge, by providing education, and by furthering the advancement of the profession. IFT has offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit

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