Knowledge for better food systems

Where are the best opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the food system (including the food chain)?

This paper reviews estimates of food related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the global, regional and national levels, highlighting both GHG-intensive stages in the food chain, and GHG-intensive food types.

It examines approaches that have been proposed for mitigating emissions at each stage in the chain and looks at how these sit within wider discussions of sustainability. It finds that efficiency-focused technological measures, while important, may not only be insufficient in reducing GHGs to the level required but may also give rise to other environmental and ethical concerns. It gives evidence showing that in addition to technological mitigation it will also be necessary to shift patterns of consumption, and in particular away from diets rich in GHG-intensive meat and dairy foods. This will be necessary not just in the developed but also, in the longer term, in the developing world. This move, while potentially beneficial for food secure, wealthier populations, raises potentially serious nutritional questions for the world’s poorest. A priority for decision makers is to develop policies that explicitly seek to integrate agricultural, environmental and nutritional objectives.  

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