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Food Production Must Cut Fossil-Fuel Dependence, FAO Says

The global food system needs to cut its dependence on fossil fuels to feed a growing world population, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization said.

Reliance on fossil fuels to grow, process and store food could limit the ability to meet increasing demand as the world population expands, the Rome-based UN agency said in an e-mailed statement today.

Food production, from farming to consumption, accounts for about 30 percent of world energy use, the FAO said. Energy used on farms for pumping water, housing livestock and plowing fields amounts to about 6.3 percent of food-production energy use, according to the agency.

“There is justifiable concern that the current dependence of the food sector on fossil fuels may limit the sector’s ability to meet global food demands,” the FAO wrote. “The challenge is to decouple food from fluctuating energy prices.”

The use of more fuel-efficient engines, cutting back on plowing, applying compost and monitoring irrigation are among the measures that can be taken on farms, the FAO said.

There must be “significant action” to reduce food losses, which will improve energy use in the agri-food chain, FAO said. The transition to “energy-smart agriculture” needs to start now, the agency said.

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