According to a mid-October report by the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI), feeding a burgeoning world population in coming decades will be a daunting, but achievable, task. Released at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, the 2012 Global Agricultural Productivity (GAP) Report calls for more research and the expansion of free trade and planting of GMO crops.

For more on GHI (which is backed by non-profits as well as by companies such as Monsanto, DuPont, and Deere), see here.

Speakers at the conference also tackled the failure to feed the world’s “truly poor” numbering 800 million-plus, climate change, and the problems created by the broadening chasm between links in the world’s food supply chains.

The GAP report makes use of an index – based on “the measurement of total factor productivity (TFP), which reflects the amounts of total inputs used per unit of output, including comparisons of the growth of output to the growth of input use,” according to the GHI – and concluded the following about four world regions:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Only 13 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s total food demand in 2050 can be met if the region’s TFP rate remains constant. This significant gap will need to be closed through investments in productivity improvements, selective expansion, intensification, and trade.”

  • Middle East and Northern Africa.

“The Middle East and Northern Africa region will be able to satisfy 83 percent of total food demand in 2050 by maintaining its current TFP rate. With increasing demands on limited water supplies, investments in the agricultural value chain will be needed to maintain or advance food production levels. The remainder will need to be met through trade and safety net programs.”

  • East Asia.

“Due to increased and changing food demands, East Asia will be able to satisfy 74 percent of total food demand in 2050 by maintaining its current TFP rate. The remainder will need to be met through imports and productivity increases.”

  • Latin America and the Caribbean.

“The region encompassing Latin America and the Caribbean will produce a substantial food surplus by 2050 if the current TFP rate is maintained. However, investment is needed in infrastructure and continued productivity improvements to maximize the region’s prospects to become a net food exporter.”