Comprehensive reform of agriculture and food production has to occur for the world to continue feed itself reliably and without eventual environmental catastrophe, according to a report from a global scientific panel.
The Food and Land Use Coalition, an organization founded in 2017 to examine worldwide food practices, issued a report, “Growing Better,” that examines food production and recommends long-term solutions.
The report acknowledges that the current food supply situation seems acceptable on the surface. “But dig deeper, and the end-to-end system losses are well over 50 percent as a result of poorly allocated land and water resources, slow diffusion of best farming practice beyond large farms, under-investment in rural infrastructure and human capital, and food loss and waste amounting to one-third of primary production,” it says. It estimates that modern food practices cost the world $12 trillion a year in waste and damage to health and the environment.
The biggest problems include overdependence on four staple crops (corn, rice, wheat, potatoes) that collectively provide 60% of the world’s calories; environmental effects that include 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions and depletion of forests and other natural habitats; health problems including both malnutrition and obesity; and poverty among agricultural workers, who comprise two-thirds of the total global population living in poverty.
The report recommends that governments, global institutions and private industry and investors work together to encourage healthier diets, subsidize more sustainable agriculture and cut food waste. It estimates that such reforms would cost up to $350 billion a year, but would create business opportunities worth up to $4.5 trillion.