Knowledge for better food systems

Breaking the vicious circle: food, climate and nutrition

Rob Bailey and Bernice Lee of UK think tank Chatham House have written a piece exploring food system trends, including rising food demand, plateauing yields in key crop production regions, global convergence on a diet dependent on calorie-dense but nutrient-poor crops and a lack of genetic diversity in staple crops. The authors conclude that current food system trends are unsustainable, saying, “The continued intensification and expansion of agriculture is a short-term coping strategy that will eventually lead to food-system collapse.” They call for interventions at key leverage points in the food system.

Specifically, they recommend:

  • Using government policy to incentivise farmers to increase crop diversity and provide ecosystems services through agriculture, and encourage consumers to eat healthily, reduce waste and reduce meat consumption.
  • Using different approaches in different contexts, noting that policies will need to be different between developed and developing countries, where food waste and meat consumption levels are low.
  • Using new technology, for example, to reduce fertiliser demand, separate meat production from land use, monitor land management and improve supply chain transparency.

Read the full piece here. See also the Foodsource chapter Impacts of climatic and environmental change on food systems.

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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