Rethinking our food systems

Since 1990, the world has lost more than a billion acres, or 420 million hectares, of forest, an area larger than the size of Canada. We lose about 15 billion trees every year to deforestation, and a major driver is the production of commodities, especially palm oil, soy and beef. At the same time, our food systems have become far less resilient to the shocks and stresses of climate change. We need to rethink our food systems from the ground up.

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Regenerative Agriculture is the New Farming Buzzword, but Few Can Agree on What It Means

  • Farmers are struggling to clarify the meanings of terms like "organic" and "regenerative" in the context of sustainable agriculture, which can be confusing for consumers.
  • Regenerative agriculture aims to restore degraded soil using natural inputs and practices, such as rotational grazing and multi-species pastures, but lacks a consistent definition and agreement on best practices.
  • While organic farming restricts the use of synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, and GMOs, regenerative agriculture promotes the overall health of ecosystems. Farmers are increasingly promoting transparency and offering farm tours to help consumers better understand their practices and food sources.

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Can the World Feed 8 Billion People Sustainably?

  • Despite producing enough food to feed the global population, increasing hunger is linked to factors such as rising food, fuel, and fertilizer costs, driven by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
  • The challenge of increasing food production while addressing environmental degradation and the climate crisis is significant. The United Nations estimates that food production must rise by 70% by 2050, but current agricultural practices are responsible for nearly a third of carbon emissions and 90% of deforestation.
  • Solutions to address these challenges include land restoration, regenerative agriculture, reducing food miles by promoting local produce, and shifting towards plant-based diets. Reducing food waste and loss, especially in wealthier countries, can also play a critical role in creating a more sustainable food system.

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The Seed Guardians of Peru Trying to Save the Potato

  • Potato Park in the Andes region of Peru is preserving and adapting diverse potato varieties, as well as other native Andean crops, to help ensure resilience to climate change. The park, founded by indigenous communities, is preserving both the genetic diversity of these crops and the cultural heritage of the people who grow them.
  • In situ conservation, which involves preserving crops through cultivation in the field, is a vital complement to ex situ conservation, such as seed banks. It offers opportunities for crops to adapt to real-world conditions, and farmers can select varieties with desirable traits and encourage adaptation to changing environments.
  • The knowledge and genetic diversity held by small-scale growers worldwide, known as "seed guardians," play a crucial role in preserving and adapting valuable food plants facing threats from climate change, habitat destruction, and neglect. In addition to global seed banks, these local stewards are essential for maintaining food security and biodiversity.

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A Watershed Year for Action on Deforestation

  • Tackling deforestation is now recognized as critical for achieving the Paris climate goals, with global initiatives like the Race to Zero emphasizing the importance of addressing deforestation in net-zero policies. The financial sector, represented by the Glasgow Financial Alliance on Net Zero (GFANZ), has included deforestation action in its transition guidance. The recent Global Biodiversity Framework underlines the link between climate change, the nature crisis, and tropical deforestation.
  • The urgency to combat deforestation and associated human rights abuses is growing, with the UN's 2025 deadline approaching. However, 40% of the 201 companies and financial institutions with the most exposure to and influence on tropical deforestation have yet to set any deforestation policies.
  • Companies must recognize deforestation as a business risk and set commitments to achieve deforestation-free supply chains and financing by 2025. Governments should adopt strong due diligence legislation aligned with global commitments, and civil society organizations must maintain pressure on companies making insufficient progress in combating deforestation.

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A Third of Companies Linked to Deforestation Have No Policy to End It

  • A third of the companies most linked to tropical rainforest destruction have not established any deforestation policies, putting global deforestation goals at risk.
  • Even among companies with deforestation commitments, many are failing to monitor their supply chains adequately, potentially allowing deforestation to continue.
  • Financial institutions are providing significant funding to companies involved in deforestation but are not effectively addressing it as a systemic risk, with 61% of such institutions lacking deforestation policies, according to the Global Canopy report. The report calls for companies, financial institutions, and governments to recognize deforestation as a business risk, set effective policies, and regulate better to eliminate deforestation from supply chains.

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More Than 8 Million Trees Felled in 6 Years to Meet Beef Demand

  • Over 800 million trees have been cut down in the Amazon rainforest in six years to meet global demand for Brazilian beef, a new investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, The Guardian, Repórter Brasil, and Forbidden Stories reveals. The investigation suggests that approximately 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) of the Amazon was destroyed near meat plants exporting beef worldwide.
  • Despite the beef industry in Brazil pledging to avoid deforestation-linked farms, data indicates that cattle ranching is a significant driver of deforestation. Researchers used satellite imagery and other data to estimate forest loss on ranches supplying the big three beef operators and exporters, JBS, Marfrig, and Minerva, and found over 100 instances of forest loss on farms directly supplying company plants.
  • The research indicates that beef from these deforestation-linked plants may have ended up in supply chains of companies such as Nestlé and German meat company Tönnies, which supplied Lidl and Aldi. This could violate new EU laws aimed at preventing deforestation in supply chains. Environmental activists and lawmakers are calling for global legislation to address deforestation.

Think about it!

Take a moment to reflect on some of the key issues related to our food system.

Deforestation-free supply chains:

What will it take for corporations to improve their record on deforestation-free supply chains? How can the global community help exert pressure to make this a reality?

Transition to more sustainable agricultural practices:

What will it take for the world to transition to more sustainable agricultural practices? What are the three most important levers of change?

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Andreea Alexandra Mitrofan commented 7 months ago ago

Dig even deeper!

Use these exercises to dive deeper and explore some of the pathways to rethink our food systems from the ground up.

Imagine two scenarios:

Imagine two scenarios by 2050. In the first scenario, almost all companies have committed - and are enforcing - deforestation-free supply chains. In the second, almost no company is, and deforestation is higher than ever. Now map out a plausible chain of events for both scenarios.

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Andreea Alexandra Mitrofan commented 7 months ago

Start a conversation!

Spark meaningful conversations on social media! Share the recommended posts to inspire your network to reflect and take action.

Time to transform our food systems!

Ready for a food revolution? It’s time to transform our food systems from the ground up. Discover 5 essential transformations that will drive this change towards resilient, diverse, and equitable food systems. #NatureForLife

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Let's sow the seeds of change!

Our planet's health is closely tied to the way we farm. It's time for a shift towards regenerative agriculture – a sustainable approach that nurtures the soil, sequesters carbon, and benefits both the environment and our food. Let's sow the seeds of change! #RegenerativeAgriculture #NatureForLife

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