The report said South Asia and Africa were battlegrounds for poverty reduction as the world population rose to a peak in 2050. Prospects for quick advances in curbing hunger are better for India and Bangladesh than sub-Saharan Africa, it said.
Funded by groups including the World Bank and the European Commission, the report said agricultural research needed reforms as radical as those that occurred during industrial and agricultural revolutions of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Research needs to be increased, and a fragmented seed-to-table food production system needs to be overhauled to improve cooperation between small-scale farmers, governments, companies, scientists, civil society groups and others.
The report noted estimates that net investments of $83 billion a year, at 2009 prices, were needed in developing countries to meet U.N. projections of 2050 food demand. That is an increase of almost 50 percent over current levels, it said.
The world population is projected to rise to 9 billion by 2050 from 6.8 billion now. Between 1.0 and 1.5 billion people now live in poverty.
There have been great advances in agricultural development in the past 50 years with remarkable increases in productivity, said Jules Pretty, professor of Environment & Society at Essex University in England who was among the authors.
But there are still a billion people hungry and a lot of the progress has been made at the expense of the environment, he told Reuters of the study, to be presented at a March 28-31 meeting of 1,000 farm experts in Montpellier, France.
Just around the corner are a number of serious threats which may already be playing out -- climate change, an energy crunch, economic uncertainty in the current model and rapidly changing consumption patterns, he said.
One risk is that poor nations may imitate the tastes of rich countries, where rates of obesity are rising. In developing nations including Peru, Ghana and Tunisia there are now more overweight people than hungry people, Pretty said.
Diets in developing countries will shift from low- to high-value cereals, poultry, meat, fruit and vegetables, the report said.
That is also likely to be accompanied by hunger and poverty in the countries with the poorest populations, while obesity rates as high as those now seen in wealthy countries will occur in others, it said.
Other changes include the shift to a bigger urban population.
Addressing food security issues in urban areas is completely different than doing so in rural areas, wrote Eduardo Trigo, one of the authors. The focus will have to shift to producing food by the poor for the poor.
Pretty said the report's recommendation of broader cooperation, from farmers to governments, could unlock innovation. That doesn't mean that everybody has to work with everybody all the time, which leads to paralysis, he said.
Among farming success stories, Malawi has become a major producer of maize since the government decided to subsidize farmers' fertilizer supplies, he said.