London, July 14 : A new report has warned that demand for land to grow food, fuel crops and wood is set to outstrip supply, leading to the probable destruction of forests.
According to a report by BBC News, the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) has calculated that rising demand for food, biofuels and wood for paper, building and industry means that 515 million hectares of extra land will be needed for growing crops and trees by 2030.
But only 200 million hectares will be available without dipping into tropical forests.
The dual crises of fuel and food are attracting significant land speculation.
"Arguably, we are on the verge of a last great global land grab," said RR''s Andy White, co-author of the major report, "Seeing People through the Trees".
"It will mean more deforestation, more conflict, more carbon emissions, more climate change and less prosperity for everyone," he added.
The report cites studies suggesting that "If the current plateau in productivity continues, the amount of additional agricultural land required just to meet the world's projected food demand in 2050 would be about three billion hectares, nearly all of which would be required in developing countries."
According to UN figures, the world currently has about 1.4 billion hectares of arable land and about 3.4 billion hectares of pasture.
Some academics place their hopes in agricultural technologies including genetic engineering to boost crop yields.
But since the spectacular successes of the Green Revolution, advances have been slow. In some areas, yields are falling - a trend which is likely to be exacerbated by climate change.
However, eating into tropical forests to create extra agricultural land would, in turn, exacerbate climate change, with deforestation currently accounting for about 20% of greenhouse gas emissions.
One of RRI's key conclusions is that reform of land ownership is crucial, if large-scale pillage of tropical forests is to be avoided.
"These new studies should strengthen global resolve to protect the property rights of indigenous and local communities who play a vital role in protecting one the most outstanding natural wonders of the world," said Gareth Thomas minister of DfID (UK Department for International Development). any indigenous peoples need help in acquiring rights to the land they live on.
"It is clear that the dual crises of fuel and food are attracting significant new investments and great land speculation," said White.
"Only by protecting the rights of the people who live in and around the world's most vulnerable forests can we prevent the devastation these forces will wreak on the poor," he added.