Sustainable food system

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A sustainable food system is a type of food system that provides healthy food to people and creates sustainable environmental, economic and social systems that surround food.

Sustainable food systems start with the development of sustainable agricultural practices, development of more sustainable food distribution systems, creation of sustainable diets and reduction of food waste throughout the system.Sustainable food systems have been argued to be central to many[1] or all[2] 17 Sustainable Development Goals.[3]

Moving to sustainable food systems is an important component of addressing the causes of climate change. A 2020 review conducted for the European Union found that up to 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions could be attributed to the food system, including crop and livestock production, transportation, changing land use (including deforestation) and food loss and waste.[4] Sustainable food systems are frequently at the center of sustainability focused policy programs, such as proposed Green New Deal programs.

Definition[edit]

There are many different definitions of a sustainable food system.

From a global perspective, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations describes a sustainable food system as follows:[5]

A sustainable food system (SFS) is a food system that delivers food security and nutrition for all in such a way that the economic, social and environmental bases to generate food security and nutrition for future generations are not compromised. This means that:

The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines a sustainable food system as:[6]

one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment. A sustainable food system also encourages local production and distribution infrastructures and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all. Further, it is humane and just, protecting farmers and other workers, consumers, and communities

The European Union's Scientific Advice Mechanism defines a sustainable food system as a system that:[7]

provides and promotes safe, nutritious and healthy food of low environmental impact for all current and future EU citizens in a manner that itself also protects and restores the natural environment and its ecosystem services, is robust and resilient, economically dynamic, just and fair, and socially acceptable and inclusive. It does so without compromising the availability of nutritious and healthy food for people living outside the EU, nor impairing their natural environment

Academic discipline[edit]

The study of sustainable food applies systems theory and methods of sustainable design towards food systems. As an interdisciplinary field, the study of sustainable food systems has been growing in the last several decades. University programs focused on sustainable food systems include:

Public policy[edit]

European Union[edit]

In September 2019, the European Union's Chief Scientific Advisors stated that transitioning to a sustainable food system should be a high priority for the EU:[19]

Although availability of food is not perceived as an immediate, major concern in Europe, the challenge to ensure a long-term, safe, nutritious and affordable supply of food, from both land and the oceans, remains. A portfolio of coordinated strategies is called for to address this challenge.

In January 2020, the EU put the transition to a sustainable food system at the core of the European Green Deal. The European Commission's 'Farm to Fork strategy for a sustainable food system', due to be published in spring 2020, is expected to lay out how European countries will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect biodiversity, reduce food waste and chemical pesticide use, and contribute to a circular economy.[20]

In April 2020, the EU's Scientific Advice Mechanism delivered to European Commissioners a Scientific Opinion on how to transition to a sustainable food system, informed by an evidence review report undertaken by European academies.[21]

Problems with conventional food systems[edit]

Industrial agriculture causes environmental impacts, as well as health problems associated with obesity in the rich world and hunger in the poor world.[22] This has generated a strong movement towards healthy, sustainable eating as a major component of overall ethical consumerism.[23][24]

Conventional food systems are largely based on the availability of inexpensive fossil fuels, which is necessary for mechanized agriculture, the manufacture or collection of chemical fertilizers, the processing of food products, and the packaging of foods. Food processing began when the number of consumers started growing rapidly. The demand for cheap and efficient calories climbed resulting in nutrition decline.[25] Industrialized agriculture, due to its reliance on economies of scale to reduce production costs, often leads to the compromising of local, regional, or even global ecosystems through fertilizer runoff, nonpoint source pollution,[26] and greenhouse gas emission.

Also, the need to reduce production costs in an increasingly global market can cause production of foods to be moved to areas where economic costs (labor, taxes, etc.) are lower or environmental regulations are more lax, which are usually further from consumer markets. For example, the majority of salmon sold in the United States is raised off the coast of Chile, due in large part to less stringent Chilean standards regarding fish feed and regardless of the fact that salmon are not indigenous in Chilean coastal waters.[27] The globalization of food production can result in the loss of traditional food systems in less developed countries, and have negative impacts on the population health, ecosystems, and cultures in those countries.[28]

Sourcing sustainable food[edit]

At the global level the environmental impact of agribusiness is being addressed through sustainable agriculture and organic farming. At the local level there are various movements working towards local food production, more productive use of urban wastelands and domestic gardens including permaculture, urban horticulture, local food, slow food, sustainable gardening, and organic gardening.[29][30]

Sustainable seafood is seafood from either fished or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired. The sustainable seafood movement has gained momentum as more people become aware about both overfishing and environmentally destructive fishing methods.

Local food systems[edit]

Food distribution[edit]

Food security, nutrition and diet[edit]

The environmental effects of different dietary patterns depend on many factors, including the proportion of animal and plant foods consumed and the method of food production.[31][32][33][34] At the same time, current and future food systems need to be provided with sufficient nutrition for not only the current population, but future population growth in light of a world affected by changing climate in the face of global warming.[35]

Food waste[edit]

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food waste is responsible for 8 percent of global human-made greenhouse gas emissions.[36] The FAO concludes that nearly 30 percent of all available agricultural land in the world - 1.4 billion hectares - is used for produced but uneaten food. The global blue water footprint of food waste is 250 km3, that is the amount of water that flows annually through the Volga or 3 times Lake Geneva.[37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (2020). A sustainable food system for the European Union (PDF). Berlin: SAPEA. p. 22. doi:10.26356/sustainablefood. ISBN 978-3-9820301-7-3.
  2. ^ "FOOD SUSTAINABILITY: KEY TO REACH SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS". BCFN Foundation: Food and Nutrition Sustainability Index. 2018-10-01. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  3. ^ "Sustainable food systems" (PDF). Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.
  4. ^ Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (2020). A sustainable food system for the European Union (PDF). Berlin: SAPEA. p. 39. doi:10.26356/sustainablefood. ISBN 978-3-9820301-7-3.
  5. ^ Sustainable food systems Concept and framework (PDF) (Report). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  6. ^ "Toward a Healthy, Sustainable Food System (Policy Number: 200712)". American Public Health Association. 2007-06-11. Retrieved 2008-08-18.
  7. ^ Science Advice for Policy by European Academies (2020). A sustainable food system for the European Union (PDF). Berlin: SAPEA. p. 68. doi:10.26356/sustainablefood. ISBN 978-3-9820301-7-3.
  8. ^ "Sustainable Food Systems". Masters of the Environment. 2018-08-10. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  9. ^ rebecca (2019-05-23). "Sustainable Food Systems Certificate". Harvard Extension School. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  10. ^ "Sustainable Food Systems | University of Delaware". www.udel.edu. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  11. ^ "Sustainable Food Systems | Nutrition & Dietetics | Mesa Community College". www.mesacc.edu. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  12. ^ "Breakthrough Leaders for Sustainable Food Systems - University Of Vermont Continuing & Distance Education". learn.uvm.edu. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  13. ^ "Food Systems". www.uvm.edu. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  14. ^ "Sustainable Food Systems Degree Vermont | Sustainable Food Systems". Sterling College. Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  15. ^ "Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems – Sustainable Food Systems Initiative". Retrieved 2019-11-26.
  16. ^ "Portland State Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems | Welcome". www.pdx.edu. Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  17. ^ "Portland State College of Urban & Public Affairs: Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning | Food Systems Advising Pathway". www.pdx.edu. Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  18. ^ "Postgraduate courses | Institute for Sustainable Food | The University of Sheffield". www.sheffield.ac.uk. Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  19. ^ Group of Chief Scientific Advisors (25 September 2019). "Scoping paper: Towards an EU Sustainable Food System" (PDF). EU Scientific Advice Mechanism.
  20. ^ Binns, John (2019-12-10). "Farm to Fork strategy for sustainable food". Food Safety - European Commission. Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  21. ^ "The shift to a more sustainable food system is inevitable. Here's how to make it happen | SAPEA". www.sapea.info. Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  22. ^ Garnett, Tara (February 2013). "Food sustainability: problems, perspectives and solutions". Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 72 (1): 29–39. doi:10.1017/S0029665112002947. ISSN 0029-6651. PMID 23336559.
  23. ^ Mason, J. & Singer, P. (2006). The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter. London: Random House. ISBN 1-57954-889-X
  24. ^ Rosane, Olivia (29 November 2018). "Our Food Systems Are Failing Us': 100+ Academies Call for Overhaul of Food Production". Ecowatch. Retrieved 27 May 2019.
  25. ^ Nestle, Marion. (2013). Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health." Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520275966
  26. ^ (1993); Schnitkey, G.D., Miranda, M.; "The Impact of Pollution Controls on Livestock Crop producers", Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics
  27. ^ (2001); Bjorndal, T., "The Competitiveness of the Chilean Salmon Aquaculture Industry", Foundation for Research in Economics and Business Administration, Bergen, Norway
  28. ^ (1996); Kuhnlein, H.V., Receveur, O.; Dietary Change and Traditional Food Systems of Indigenous Peoples; Centre for Nutrition and the Environment of Indigenous Peoples, and School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition, McGill University, Quebec, Canada
  29. ^ "Earth Stats." Archived 11 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine Gardensofbabylon.com. Retrieved on: 7 July 2009.
  30. ^ Holmgren, D. (March 2005). "Retrofitting the suburbs for sustainability." Archived 15 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine CSIRO Sustainability Network. Retrieved on: 7 July 2009.
  31. ^ McMichael A.J.; Powles J.W.; Butler C.D.; Uauy R. (September 2007). "Food, Livestock Production, Energy, Climate change, and Health" (PDF). Lancet. 370 (9594): 1253–63. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61256-2. PMID 17868818. S2CID 9316230. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 February 2010. Retrieved on: 18 March 2009.
  32. ^ Baroni L.; Cenci L.; Tettamanti M.; Berati M. (February 2007). "Evaluating the Environmental Impact of Various Dietary Patterns Combined with Different Food Production Systems" (PDF). Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 61 (2): 279–86. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602522. PMID 17035955. S2CID 16387344. Retrieved on: 18 March 2009.
  33. ^ Steinfeld H., Gerber P., Wassenaar T., Castel V., Rosales M., de Haan, C. (2006). "Livestock's Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options". Retrieved on: 18 March 2009.
  34. ^ Heitschmidt R.K.; Vermeire L.T.; Grings E.E. (2004). "Is Rangeland Agriculture Sustainable?". Journal of Animal Science. 82 (E–Suppl): E138–146. doi:10.2527/2004.8213_supplE138x (inactive 2020-09-09). PMID 15471792.CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of September 2020 (link) Retrieved on: 18 March 2009.
  35. ^ "Sustainable food systems - UNSCN". www.unscn.org. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  36. ^ "Food wastage footprint & Climate Change" (PDF). Food and Agriculture Organization.
  37. ^ "Food wastage footprint, impacts on natural resources" (PDF). Food and Agriculture Organization.

Further reading[edit]