A new report out from the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) shows that unless the world adopts a vegetarian diet within the next 40 years, our planet could face food and water crisis of catastrophic proportions.

The report is being released at the annual world water conference in Stockholm, Sweden, where 2,500 politicians, UN bodies, non-governmental groups and researchers meet to address global water supply problems. According to the SIWI report’s findings, the world’s diet, on average, gets about 20 percent of its protein from animal sources. Based on population projections, unless we all cut that back to no more than 5 percent by 2050, we won’t have enough food to feed the estimated 2 billion additional people in the world.

Perhaps more importantly, farming animals and fish for meat requires a large amount of water—up to 10 times more than growing plant crops. Nearly a third of all the arable land on the planet is used to grow feed crops for animals.  And then, up to a third of all that food we’re producing gets wasted.

“More than one-fourth of all the water we use worldwide is taken to grow over one billion tons of food that nobody eats. That water, together with the billions of dollars spent to grow, ship, package and purchase the food, is sent down the drain.” said Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of the SIWI. “Reducing the waste of food is the smartest and most direct route to relieve pressure on water and land resources. It’s an opportunity we cannot afford to overlook,” he added.

Image by Kathryn Denman