We May All Be Vegetarians in 40 Years

According to researchers, the world may have to become vegetarian to avoid food shortages

If all those photos of the polar ice caps melting haven't freaked you out about the state of the Earth, this report just might. Scientists from the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) have concluded that nearly the entire world's population may have to become (mostly) vegetarian to avoid food shortages.

According to the report, currently humans get 20 percent of protein from animal-based products; an extra 2 billion people are expected to enter the world by 2050, which means the protein-portion of our diet will have to drop to 5 percent.

The water scientists claim that in the future, there will not be enough water to produce food for the 9 billion people wandering the world by 2050 if everyone keeps eating meat. "There will be just enough water if the proportion of animal-based foods is limited to 5 percent of total calories," the report said. Considering this year's food-price-lifting drought, a shortage is expected since "a country's ability to produce food is limited by the amount of available water on its croplands." Researchers suggest water-rich countries produce more food for those who lack water.

Reducing the amount of animal-based products in our diet is one way to conserve water for growing more food, SIWI wrote. Animal-based foods use up five to 10 times more water than a vegetarian diet, the Gaurdian reported. Land and resources used to grow feed for animals can be redirected to growing plants for human consumption.

"Nine hundred million people already go hungry and 2 billion people are malnourished in spite of the fact that per capita food production continues to increase," researchers wrote. "With 70 percent of all available water being in agriculture, growing more food to feed an additional 2 billion people by 2050 will place greater pressure on available water and land."