We are facing a “triple planetary crisis”—climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and a human health crisis. What is the connecting thread through all these crises? Dysfunctional food systems that are making us ill and driving climate change.
Unsustainable practices that underpin today’s industrialized food systems—like intensive livestock and commodity crop production, chemical fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotic overuse, long and deregulated commodity supply chains—negatively impact human, animal, and ecological health. Food systems cause significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and are intrinsically connected to increases in zoonotic diseases like COVID-19, antimicrobial resistance, environmental contamination, and deforestation and land degradation. Unhealthy dietary patterns, increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods, rising malnutrition, and compounding food insecurity are also visible worldwide.
More than 2.3 billion people or 30 percent of the global population lacked year-round access to adequate food in 2020; yet, another 677 million adults on earth are obese. All too often, we see the responsibility of a “healthy diet” being placed on the shoulders of the consumer but where is the scrutiny on the inequitable and unsafe food environments that limit and dictate people’s dietary choices and nutritional status?
The many correlations between industrialized food systems, biodiversity loss, and a lack of diversification in diets are painfully apparent too when we consider that of the world’s 6000 species available for consumption, only 12 crops and 5 animal species make up 75 percent of what we eat globally. Shockingly, 90 percent of agricultural subsidies—worth US$600 billion of taxpayers’ money annually—have no climate or environmental safeguards. Research also demonstrates that the consumption of much less animal protein is healthier for all populations and demographics as long as a culturally appropriate, diverse, and balanced whole-foods diet is accessible.
Fortunately, though our food systems are a major player in the climate problems we face, they can also be a source of the brilliant solutions we need. Addressing what we eat, how our food is produced, distributed, and finally disposed of is our chance to tackle the planetary emergency, keep global warming below 1.5°C, address the SDGs and improve health and well-being for all.
Read the full article about food sustainability at Food Tank.
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