Researchers: Food systems must be overhauled, but obstacles are many
Monday, August 20, 2018
Agriculture and food policies must be more than just the supply of food, and decision-makers in the industry must "make a paradigm shift to align policies about climate, agriculture and food with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development."
So says a group of international researchers who have penned a new review article in the journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development, the official journal of the French Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA).
The article follows the agreements of world leaders, who in 2015, agreed in principle to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, its 17 "sustainable development goals" and 169 targets.
This agreement set about a movement of "universal and integrated action" for developed and developing countries to "help people and the planet" in the pursuit of prosperity, justice and partnerships. Ultimately, these agreements and goals mean the signatory countries are supportive of efforts to "focus on climate action" and "aligns with the Paris Agreement about climate change."
"Sustainable intensification" farming programs have focused on increasing the resource use efficiency of farming (crop per drop, precision inputs, improved seeds) so as to reduce farming’s negative environmental footprint.
One theory is that by implementing "land-sparing" programs that concentrate efforts on high-yield farming in selected areas, society can spare more areas for nature and the production of ecosystem services that are critical for human well-being and system stability.
But the world population and agricultural product demands are still growing.
According to Ecoagricultural Partners, even with successful intensification, there will not likely be much aggregate shrinkage of area under production agriculture "particularly without ambitious institutional innovations in land governance." Currently, agriculture and agriculture-related deforestation and land degradation are responsible for between 19 percent and 29 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The researchers of the Agronomy for Sustainable Development article say the transformation of food systems should rely on four pillars: food systems should enable all people to benefit from nutritious and healthy food; they should reflect sustainable agricultural production and food value chains; efforts should mitigate climate change and build resilience; and these transformations should encourage a renaissance of rural territories.
Implementing such transformation plans calls for the availability of “suitable metrics to guide decision-making, a synergy in policies that entwines local and global priorities, and enhancing development approaches that focus on territories."
But, efforts to accomplish such will be tremendous, the authors say, especially given the global scope of the project, and because of the different expectations on local and national levels. A recent example of this might be found in the Trump administration’s removal of the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. What President Trump views as not being productive for the United States may be beneficial to other countries or economies throughout the world.
Thus, full alignment of such efforts is likely a difficult undertaking, if not almost altogether impossible.
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