The future of humanity is defined by the future of food, however a new report has warned the global food system is headed for failure, with potentially catastrophic consequences for all.
The Commission for the Human Future’s second round table conference on global threats and solutions has called for a worldwide effort to transform global food production to a system that is renewable, healthy and fair to all.
It warns there are a range of growing threats to food security, from resource scarcity, climate change, the failure of agro-ecosystems and a commodified industrial food system designed for profit, not to nourish humanity.
The Commission’s report comes as the United Nations warns that world food supplies are failing and the COVID-19 pandemic is making matters worse.
According to the report, fracturing of industrial food chains is already evident in the COVID-19 pandemic, diet-related disease has become the greatest killer of our age and, in the medium term, the food supply is imperilled by scarcities of soil, water and nutrients, genetic narrowing and climatic instability.
It goes on to say that while there is currently a worldwide focus on renewable energy to power the human future, “the focus on renewable food is negligible. This has to change. The two go hand-in-hand”.
While the report highlights some of the extreme vulnerabilities and weaknesses of the present food system, it also outlines potential solutions and ways to build a renewable world food system. These include growing far more food in cities and the deep oceans, and converting extractive farming to regenerative agriculture.
In particular, it urges the adoption of ‘circular food economies’ where key resources such as water and nutrients are continually recycled, and not wasted as at present. Flattening the human population growth curve was also acknowledged as an area where action is required.
“Our greatest enemy is complacency – the lazy belief that because there is food in the shops today, it will always be there tomorrow,” Commission chairman, Professor John Hewson AM, cautioned. “This view has coloured the attitudes of governments, corporations and consumers alike. It has bred inaction, lack of interest, lack of vision, lack of research, lack of the will to change.
“Our report is a call for action by everyone – farmers, consumers, industry, governments, communities, Indigenous people, scientists, cooks and investors – to join in building a healthy, renewable food industry for the future. We want to stir discussion, debate, ideas and a worldwide movement to transform food.”
The Commission will shortly release a second report from the roundtable discussion, focussing on policy changes and opportunities for Australia in the food sphere.