The COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing climate emergency, and increasing hunger are inextricably linked to human-made, unsustainable food systems that degrade the environment and undermine human and animal health. These crises exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and structural inequalities at the heart of our social systems. The case for systemic change, from policy to practice, has never been clearer.



Unsustainable agriculture

Overly dependent on fossil fuels and polluting chemical inputs, industrialized food systems are all too often at the root of eroding human health, social cohesion, rural livelihoods, and important social, cultural, and spiritual traditions. The current model promotes an economic system that hides the true cost of food, creates global trade vulnerabilities, undermines rural economies and, ultimately, increases inequality. By comparison, agroecology and regenerative ecological practices offer integrated pathways to food systems that enhance the well-being of people and the planet.


Escalating climate change

Food systems are significant contributors to, and are heavily impacted by, climate change. It is estimated that food systems account for approximately 30 per cent of global emissions. Coordinated action across food and agriculture sectors to tackle climate change could simultaneously improve food security and nutrition, and, if managed well, reduce pressure on land, sequester carbon, and support biodiversity and conservation. To achieve these transformations we need cross-sector dialogue, systems-thinking, safeguards, and equity and rights-based approaches in place.


Compounding health crises

One of the most pressing reasons to transform food systems lies in improving public health. Many of the most severe health impacts of food systems trace back to some of the core industrial food and farming practices, such as chemical-intensive agriculture, intensive livestock production, the mass production and mass marketing of ultra-processed foods, and the development of long and deregulated global commodity supply chains. New narratives, policies, practices, and business models need to be systematically designed to enhance good human, ecological, and animal health.


Accounting for hidden costs

Simplistic economic productivity metrics like ‘yield-per-hectare’ mean that negative impacts created by food systems — like habitat destruction, soil erosion, water contamination, displacement of Indigenous Peoples, diabetes, and more — go unaccounted for in the final price of food, in policy documents, and on balance sheets. This also means that positive impacts — carbon sequestration, insect pollination, resilience to natural disasters, and vibrant communities — are also hidden and can’t be enhanced. Changing the tools and frameworks used to assess food systems is an immediate way to transform food systems.