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Only possible to feed people sustainably in an equitable society

Only possible to feed people sustainably in an equitable society

A recent report from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) confirms that the current food system isn’t sustainable neither for the environment nor for our health. Organic agriculture, conservation farming and agro-ecology are key technologies for a transition to a sustainable food system, which also has to shun artificial nitrogen fertilizers. Regardless of how food is produced, an equitable society is essential for fighting hunger and malnutrition. 

The report, The future of food and agriculture – Alternative pathways to 2050, analyses three future scenarios that reflect, to varying degrees, the challenges to move food and agricultural systems towards “a world in which food is nutritious and accessible for everyone and natural resources are managed in a way that maintain ecosystem functions to support current as well as future human needs”, as wished by FAO. 

The first scenario is “business as usual”, whereby several outstanding challenges facing food and agriculture are left unaddressed. The second scenario, “towards sustainability”, embodies proactive changes towards more sustainable food and agricultural systems. The third scenario, “stratified societies”, outlines a future with exacerbated inequalities across countries and throughout different layers of societies. For all scenarios, the FAO revise the earlier projections made by itself and others that agriculture output need to increase with at least 70 percent to cope with a bigger population and changing consumption patterns. For the “towards sustainability” scenario agriculture output needs to increase with “just” 40 percent, and for the other scenarios around 50 percent.

The results suggest that it is still possible to move food and agricultural systems along a sustainable, equitable pathway that will meet growing demand. A global transformative process and concerted efforts that involve all the stakeholders is needed, however. As “business as usual” is not an option and further “stratified societies” certainly are not desirable, let’s focus on the “towards sustainability and how the FAO understand the meaning of it and how to get there.

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