Cropland expansion—a major driver of habitat and biodiversity loss— is expected to continue globally in the decades to come (Ramankutty et al. 2002). This will partly be driven by declining rates of increase in crop yields (FAOSTAT 2008; Hazell and Wood 2008). There are potentials to enhance agricultural productivity in certain regions, in particular in Sub-Saharan Africa. On a global average, future yield increases of cereal are expected, but only at the level needed to keep pace with the growth rate of human population, assuming current dietary demands (UN medium projection).

Demand for food biomass is growing. Since the early 1990s global consumption patterns began to change toward higher consumption of animal products while consumption of vegetable and grain-based products stagnated. From 2003-2007, the production of beef, pork, poultry, sheep meat, and milk increased, and in many developing countries, this increase was well over 10% (FAO 2008). By 2030, the global meat consumption per capita is projected to increase by 22%, milk and dairy by 11%, and vegetable oils by 45% compared to the year 2000 (FAO 2006). This increase, driven by changing consumption patterns mainly in developing countries, means a doubling of the demand for these commodities in absolute terms. Also, the consumption of cereals, roots and tubers, sugar, and pulses is expected to increase in developing countries above the world average, though at lower rates than the animal-based commodities.

There is no clear projection of global agricultural land requirement due to changing consumption patterns for nutrition outlined above. The projected increase of animal-based diets, points to an increasing demand for cropland. By 2020, changing diets and demand for biofuels are estimated to increase demand for cropland by 2-5 M km2, even taking into account anticipated improvement in yield (Gallagher 2008). This would require, by 2020, an increase in agricultural land equivalent to 12-31% of current global cropland. Thus, one may conclude that only to feed the world population, an expansion of global crop land will be needed.

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