Reuters has published an opinion piece that says food is at the centre of every major sustainability issue we face, yet is often overlooked.
Luca Di Leo, sustainability and food director at the European Institute for Innovation and Sustainability, writes:
Picture a teacher asking a class: “What is the biggest impact you have on the planet?” Most students are likely to point to the car they drive – or how they heat or cool their homes. While transport and energy are among the biggest contributors to carbon emissions, when taken from farm to fork, food is actually the main culprit in generating greenhouse gases.
Food is at the centre of every major sustainability issue we face, yet it’s often overlooked. Meat consumption alone accounts for almost 15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The food sector altogether accounts for almost 30 per cent. While those messages are finally starting to filter through to the masses, the complexity of food systems (and the efforts of powerful lobbies) make it harder for other striking facts to come across – and for people to act upon them.
Consider these statistics just for a moment:
– 60 per cent of our calories come from just three crops: rice, wheat and maize. Over the past century, some 75 per cent of plant diversity has been lost as farmers worldwide switched to genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties, degrading soils and polluting.
– There’s more than enough food for everyone, but we waste one-third of it. If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest polluter after the US and China.
– Agriculture accounts for around 70 per cent of deforestation and water withdrawals.
– Livestock provide just 18 per cent of calories; farming them uses 83 per cent of farmland.
If people, especially the young, become more aware of the economic, social and environmental costs and benefits of their diets, they can spread the culture of voting with their forks (or chopsticks!) every day for the health of people and the planet – and empower others to be agents of change.
Education is – arguably – one of the most effective weapons we have to accelerate the push towards the United Nations’ ambitious 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and preserve our wellbeing.