Raj Patel writing in Foreign Policy magazine asks “Can The World Feed 10 Billion People.” I think it’s pretty obvious that we can, and the reason comes from this handy-dandy high school biology lesson about the food energy pyramid:
The same primary crop yield can either support a lot of vegetarians or else it can support a lot of cows and the cows can feed a small number of meat-eaters. And by the same token, meat-eaters feeding themselves off pork or chicken consume much less grain than meat-eaters feeding themselves off cows. The point is that even if we have no increase in crop yields whatsoever, global agriculture is still producing plenty of calories to keep 10 billion people alive and well-nourished. The reason people starve and are malnourished is the distribution of those calories, not their existence, and that will continue to be the case in the future.
That’s not to deny that Patel’s main subject—increasing crop yields—is important. Fundamentally, better crop yields mean better average living standards. But starvation on the part of the poor isn’t cause by some kind of global shortage of food.