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Problematic quantifications: a critical appraisal of scenario making for a global ‘sustainable’ food production

Saltelli, A. and Lo Piano, S. ORCID: (2017) Problematic quantifications: a critical appraisal of scenario making for a global ‘sustainable’ food production. Food Ethics, 1. pp. 173-179. ISSN 2364-6861

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/s41055-017-0020-6


Over the course of human history food security has represented a primary challenge for civilizations and societies. In the light of the projected trends of population expansion in the forthcoming decades, its primary importance in the global agenda has never decreased. Our contribution to this debate comes in the form of a critique of a paper recently published in the literature, Badur et al. (2016). In their work, the authors suggest that continuous improvements in agricultural techniques and dietary re-adaptation and change will lead in the near future (2050) to a reduced use of land to meet human nutritional needs, even when factoring in a projected human population of 10 billion people. We show that the quantification rests on dubious hypotheses, at odds with present understanding from the field of system ecology, and neglects the core issue that resides in fundamental asymmetries in the food distribution between rich and poor countries. Thus, a political problem is reframed as a technical one, by mobilizing crisp numbers and analytic prowess to convey an impression of prediction and control. We warn that this might veil important underlying ethical issues.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of the Built Environment
No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Science > School of the Built Environment > Energy and Environmental Engineering group
ID Code:90467

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