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MILAN (Reuters) - The world can feed itself with less food output than previously forecast if it turns to sustainable farming, cuts waste and stops excessive consumption, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Wednesday.
If current consumption patterns persist, the world will need to raise food output by 60 percent by 2050 from 2005-07 levels to feed a population expected to rise to 9 billion from about 7 billion now, according to FAO estimates.
However, it is possible to feed the population with a smaller rise in food output than that, the FAO said in a policy report ahead of a sustainable development summit in Rio de Janeiro.
On the production side, agricultural and food systems should reduce their negative environmental impacts, including soil and water depletion as well as greenhouse gas emissions, the report said.
On the consumption side, people need to cut food losses and waste which amount to 1.3 billion metric tons (1.433 billion tons) a year, roughly one third of world food production for human consumption.
"To 'beat the projections' we need to make bold policy decisions that will affect income growth patterns, changes in dietary preferences, levels of food waste and how agricultural production is used for non-food purposes," the report said.
The governments attending the Rio+20 summit in June should commit themselves to speed up efforts to reduce hunger and malnutrition and use the UN's voluntary guidelines on the right to food, the FAO said.
The Rio+20 meeting on June 20-22 is expected to attract more than 50,000 participants, with politicians under pressure from environmentalists to agree goals for sustainable development, in the spirit of the Rio Earth Summit 20 years ago.
Sustainable development is impossible without eradicating hunger in a world where over 900 million people do not get enough to eat, the FAO's Director General Jose Graziano da Silva said in the report.
"We cannot call development sustainable while this situation persists, while nearly one out of every seven men, women and children are left behind, victims of undernourishment," he said.
Reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova; editing by Andrew Roche