Projections of the need to double food production by 2050 to feed the world's growing population are inaccurate, according to an analysis by the Soil Association.
The statistic has been used in speeches by the Government chief scientist Professor John Beddington, his predeccessor Sir David King, Defra secretary of state Hilary Benn as well as a wide variety of policy makers and biotech companies.
However, the Soil Association says the source for this statistic, a report from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) from 2006, does not actually make the claim.
The only specific claims it makes are about the rising demand for cereals (a projected 50 per cent increase by 2050) and meat (demand for poultry meat could double India's meat consumption by 2030).
More recent calculations, based on the FAO report, show a need to increase food production by smaller figure of around 70 per cent rather than 100 per cent - a difference equivalent to the entire food production of the continent of America.
Soil Association director Peter Melchett said the misused statistic had been used to promote industrial farming and the development of genetic modified crops at the expense of more sustainable food production.
'It [the claim] has dominated policy and media discussions of food and farming, making it increasingly difficult for advocates of sustainable farming methods, such as organic, to convince people we can actually feed the world without more damage to the environment and animal welfare,' he said.
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