Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits
This article (PDF), in Nature, analyses options for reducing the environmental effects of the food system. The food system is a major driver of climate change, changes in land use, depletion of freshwater resources, and pollution of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Between 2010 and 2050, the environmental effects of the food system could increase by 50–90% in the absence of technological changes and dedicated mitigation measures, reaching levels that are beyond the planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity. No single measure is enough to keep these effect. Staying within planetary boundaries of the food system requires a synergistic combination of measures: GHG emissions mitigation by dietary changes towards more plant-based diets; improvements in technologies and management in cropland and bluewater use that close yield gaps and increase water-use efficiency; and reducing nitrogen and phosphorus application will require a combination of measures, including dietary change, reductions in food loss and waste, improvements in technology and management that increase use efficiencies for nitrogen and recycling rates for phosphorus, and efforts in global socioeconomic development. Implementation of these measures will depend on the regulatory and incentive framework in each region. In particular, practical options exist for improving technologies and management practices, but adoption of those options will require investment in public infrastructure, the right incentive schemes for farmers, and better regulation. Concrete options also exist for improving socioeconomic development in developing countries, including investments in education, particularly for women, and improving access to general and reproductive health services.