The food chain: Trillions to be made from better land management

But industrial farming currently results in massive health and environmental costs, a new report says.

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    Encouraging healthier diets worldwide will have positive effects on agricultural practices, the Food and Land Use Coalition argues [File: Noor Khamis/Reuters]
    Encouraging healthier diets worldwide will have positive effects on agricultural practices, the Food and Land Use Coalition argues [File: Noor Khamis/Reuters]

    The global economy stands to gain nearly $6 trillion a year by 2030 from transforming its food and land use systems if it acts immediately, according to a new report.

    But the costs of not making such changes could be much greater if they're not done soon. The report by the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU) says failure to improve the sustainability of food production could result in disruptions to supplies and in turn lead to social unrest.

    The world is already paying the financial costs of a badly-managed food production system.

    Globally, practices such as poor land and water allocation, overusing pesticide and widespread food wastage result in losses of around $12 trillion a year due to issues related to health, development and environmental costs. This amount is approximately equivalent to China's gross domestic product (GDP), the coalition of scientists and economists says.

    By comparison, the current market value of the entire food and land use industry is $10 trillion a year, the coalition found.

    Meanwhile, the health, environmental and economic benefits associated with the transformations recommended by FOLU could total $5.7 trillion a year by 2030, and $10.5 trillion a year by 2015.

    Healthy diets are likely to be the single largest contributor, generating $1.3 trillion, followed by a productive and regenerative agriculture sector, at $1.2 trillion, and protecting and restoring nature, at $900bn, according to the report.

    The cost of the reforms FOLU proposes are estimated to be up to $350bn a year before 2030. But that would create business opportunities worth up to $4.5 trillion - a 15-fold return.

    "Some entrepreneurs and progressive corporates are already leading the charge to capitalise on these opportunities, but a strategic reframing that today's hidden costs are tomorrow's new markets still needs to go mainstream," the researchers said.

    Underlying these figures are 10 critical changes that FOLU's scientists and economists believe governments, companies and individuals can undertake.

    These would improve the way we grow our food and manage the land it is grown on. Encouraging healthier diets would affect the consumption patterns of more than nine billion people, the researchers said. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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