What is the true cost of food production?
Unsustainable farming systems that damage the environment and public health thrive at the expense of sustainable producers. Patrick Holden makes the case for "true cost accounting"
We must account for the real costs of food, or sustainable food systems will never break through to the mainstream.
We live in a time when the need for sustainable food and farming systems has never been more urgent. Earlier this year, over 200 leading scientists signed a consensus statement on Maintaining Humanity's Life Support Systems in the 21st Century. It expressed deep concern that society has reached the tipping points for a range of environmental and social consequences to our behaviour, which could significantly degrade life on earth by 2050.
Our current industrialised agriculture is at the very heart of these impacts. Increasing demand for food due to population growth, plus changing patterns of consumption as we eat more meat and heavily processed foods, means our systems of farming and food production are coming under increasing pressure.
Yields of conventionally produced food are falling. Soil the world over is being degraded ten times faster than nature can restore it. Widespread damage is being done to the earth's ecosystems through the use of chemical pesticides and nitrogen based fertilizers. Farming is making an immense contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
In short we are fast approaching a sustainability cross-roads. The long-term viability of our current globalised food system is being seriously called into question.
Young woman at farmers market image via Shutterstock.
Read more at ENN Affiliate, The Ecologist.