Or maybe a sustainable food system? Humanity should stop eating on credit

Luc Williams

Of course, apart from pure economic profit, improvements can be made this way human health and soothe crisisclimatic. The most complex study of its kind has found that existing food systems destroy more value than they create because of hidden environmental and medical costs, effectively borrowing from the future to reap profits today.

Too much meat

Our food is in crisis. We produce too much meattoo little vegetables and fruitsand our agricultural methods pollute the environment and contribute to climate change.

The current food system is responsible for one third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture is the main source of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions. It is also a major driver of deforestation, as well as water and soil pollution.

Meat production is one of the main factors contributing to climate change. The production of 1 kg of beef is responsible for the emission of approximately 10 kg of greenhouse gases. Growing soybeans for animal feed is the main reason for deforestation in the Amazon. Let us add that farm animals are responsible for half of the world’s emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas with 25 times greater impact than carbon dioxide.

Medical cost?

Food insecurity is straining medical systems. Malnutrition and obesity these are serious health problems that can lead to premature death. The former is the leading cause of death among children under five years of age worldwide. In turn, obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

Current food systems also contribute to the development of other health problems such as diseasesdigestive system, cardiovascular disease and autoimmune diseases.


Reorienting the food system to a more sustainable model would be a huge challenge, but would bring enormous benefits. First, it would help reduce climate change and improve human health. Reducing the consumption of meat and dairy products would be an important step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector. Promoting a healthy, plant-based diet would help reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Secondly, it might be possible to eliminate malnutrition and obesity (for example by reducing meat consumption). Developing local food systems and increasing access to healthy food would help reduce malnutrition.

Third, it would create better living conditions for farmers. Support for small farmers and regenerative agriculture would help create a more equitable and sustainable food system.

Costs, costs

The main challenge of the proposed food transformation is that food costs are likely to increase. Johan Rockström With Potsdam Institute (one of the authors of the study) said that this must be handled with political skill and support for the poorer sections of society, otherwise it may result in protests and demonstrations.

Christian Figueresformer executive secretary the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, emphasized the forward-looking nature of the report: “This study proves that another reality is possible and shows us what needs to be done to ensure that the food system becomes a net carbon sink by 2040. This possibility should attract the attention of every decision-maker who wants to ensure a healthier future for the planet and people.”

About the report

The report was created by Committee on the Economics of the Food Systemwhich was created thanks to cooperation Potsdam Institute, Food and Land Use Coalition and EATa holistic food system coalition CenterImmunity in Stockholm, Wellcome Trust and Strawberry Foundation. Academic partners are University of Oxford and London School of Economics.

He estimates the hidden costs of food, including climate change, human health, nutrition and natural resources, at $15 trillion, and created a new model for predicting how these hidden costs could develop depending on humanity’s capacity for change.


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