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OSLO, Norway: A new report says current food systems destroy more value than they create with over US$10 trillion in annual human suffering and planetary harm.

A group of economists and scientists suggest a new food pathway will provide socio-economic benefits of US$5 to US$10 trillion a year.

The findings follow a four-year investigation by the Food System Economics Commission (FSEC), an independent academic commission created to assess options for comprehensive food system transformation.

“The costs of inaction to transform the broken food system will probably exceed the estimates in this assessment, given that the world continues to rapidly move along an extremely dangerous path. It is likely that we will not only breach the 1.5°C limit, but also face decades of overshoot”, notes Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and FSEC Principal. “The only way to return back to 1.5°C is to phase out fossil-fuels, keep nature intact and transform food systems from source to sink of greenhouse gases. The global food system thereby holds the future of humanity on Earth in its hand”, he continues.

The report outlines what happens under current and future pathways. By 2050, even if policymakers achieve agreed commitments, current food systems will still leave 640 million people underweight while obesity will increase 70 percent globally; food will contribute to 2.7 degrees of warming by the end of the century; food production will become increasingly vulnerable to climate change and extreme events will increase dramatically.

The FSEC estimates the current unaccounted costs on people and the planet to be US$15 trillion a year, equivalent to 12 percent of global GDP in 2020, including US$11 trillion in health costs and US$3 trillion on ecosystems and the climate.

Alternatively, it believes a ‘Food System Transformation` pathway could eradicate under-nutrition to save 174 million lives from premature death by 2050; food systems could be net carbon sinks by 2040; global warming could be less than 1.5 degrees by the end of the century when combined with low-emission energy development; an additional 1.4 billion hectares of land would be protected; the nitrogen surplus from agriculture would be halved and 400 million farm workers could enjoy sufficient income.

“The cost of achieving this transformation - estimated at the equivalent of 0.2-0.4 percent of global GDP per year - is small relative to the multi-trillion dollar benefits it could bring,” explains Hermann Lotze-Campen, FSEC Commissioner and head of the PIK Climate Resilience Research Department.

“Food systems are a uniquely powerful means of addressing global climate, nature and health emergencies at the same time while offering a better life to hundreds of millions of people,” he adds.

The FSEC brings together experts in food system transformation from the perspective of environmental sustainability, global health, nutrition, economic development, and social inclusion.


LONDON, UK: A report by environmental organisation Feedback says the world’s 55 largest industrial livestock companies have received over US$615 billion in financing since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2016.

As of March 2023, it included US$287.8 billion in stocks and US$35.5 billion in bonds with the top investors being BlackRock ($37.8 billion), Vanguard ($24.4 billion) and Capital Group ($21.4 billion).

Bank of America ($28.8 billion), Barclays ($28.2 billion) and JPMorgan Chase ($26.7 billion) topped the list of credit providers as the volume rose 15 percent between 2019-2022 compared to the previous four years. Barclays was the largest global creditor to JBS, Morgan Stanley to Tyson Foods and BNP Paribas to Cargill.

In addition to helping JBS, Marfrig, Cargill, Tyson Foods and Minerva grow and eat more animals, the financing has led to the annual production of an estimated 595 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2e) in the four-year period.

Feedback says the 55 livestock companies represent “about a fifth” of all the cattle, pigs and chickens butchered globally with no plans to reduce their output.

The report says this percentage equals a daily capacity to slaughter 44 million chickens, 199,000 cattle and 639,000 pigs – a volume that is unsustainable according to professor Hans Pörtner, scientist and co-chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): “Without reducing and cutting down on meat consumption and the associated high-intensity agriculture systems, we will not be able to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees.”

According to a May 2023 study published in Nature Food, the US$14.0 trillion of externalities linked to the global food system includes 61 percent attributed to meat, dairy, eggs and animal fat causing an estimated US$8.5 trillion annually in externalized health and climate costs.

In addition to ending private funds for industrial livestock corporations and taxing any related pollution activity, Feedback says it wants governments to set limits on their pollution of water, air and soil, tax methane and nitrous oxide emissions, stop deforestation, increase protections for workers and restrict the use of antibiotics on animals.


LONDON: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Sustainable Food Trust have launched a challenge for the food industry to create new or re-designed products using circular design principles that regenerate nature.

By transforming the way products are made, food businesses and retailers can play a crucial role in creating a circular economy for food where nature is regenerated, helping to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss.

“We know the problems. The current food system is a key driver of biodiversity loss and accounts for a third of global greenhouse gases. By applying the principles of circular design to our food system, we can create food that regenerates nature and tackles some of our most pressing global issues,” said Foundation chair, Ellen MacArthur.

With 150 participants so far including Unilever, John Lewis, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s Coca-Cola, Danone, Google, Nestle, the Foundation has announced £500,000 in new grant funding with a goal of new food designs available in supermarkets by the end of 2024.

"The world's industrial food system wasn't designed for resilience or sustainability – qualities we would require if we built it today,” explained Wendy Schmidt, president and co-founder of the Schmidt Family Foundation. “Instead, we've spent the last 100 years working for mechanical efficiency at low cost, often sacrificing quality and ignoring externalities.

“The consequences of this approach are contributing hugely to climate destruction while leaving many people around the world without access to good food. If we don't dramatically change the way we source, produce, distribute and discard food, we face a future with ongoing plastic pollution, a warming atmosphere, and an Ocean losing both the oxygen we breathe and the marine life half the human population depends on for its primary protein.”

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and his wife Wendy set up their organisation in 2006 to address sustainability issues and the responsible use of natural resources.

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