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Food


Food Systems and Natural Resources (2016)


Full Report ENGLISH 


Summary ENGLISH


Fact sheet ENGLISH


Infographic ENGLISH


Individual Sections: SECTION 1 | SECTION 2 | SECTION 3 |SECTION 4 | SECTION 5

An interactive version of this infographic is available here: Link 


Global food systems have radically changed over the last 50 years. Food production has more than  doubled, diets have become more varied (and often more energy-intense) satisfying people’s preferences  in terms of form, taste and quality, and numerous  local, national and multi-national food-related enterprises have emerged providing livelihoods for millions. Nonetheless, over 800 million people are still hungry (70% of which live in rural areas in developing countries), about two billion suffer from poor nutrition, and over two billion are overweight or obese. The resource use implications and environmental impacts of these food systems are significant. In general, of all economic activities, the food sector has by far the largest impact on natural resource use as well as on the environment. An estimated 60% of global terrestrial biodiversity loss is related to food production; food systems account for around 24% of the global greenhouse gas emissions and an estimated 33% of soils are moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, nutrient depletion, acidification, salinization, compaction and chemical pollution.

The Food Systems working group of the International Resource Panel has prepared a comprehensive scientific assessment of the current status and dynamics of natural resource use in food systems and their environmental impacts. The IRP identifies opportunities for Resource Smart Food Systems responding to policy-relevant questions like what do sustainable food systems look like from a natural resource perspective? How can resource efficiency improvements be made to enhance food security? How to steer transition towards sustainable food systems?

The report looks at food as a crucial connection point (a ‘node’) where various societal issues coincide, such as human dependence on natural resources, the environment, health and wellbeing. Rather than looking separately at resources such as land, water and minerals, the IRP has chosen a systems approach. The report looks at all the resources needed for the primary production of food, as well as for other food system activities (e.g. processing, distribution) considering not only the set of activities, but also the range of actors engaged  in them and the outcomes in terms of food security,  livelihoods and human health.

 

Reports & Publications

  • Unlocking the Sustainable Potential of Land Resources: Evaluation Systems, Strategies and Tools

    Land resources are one of nature’s most precious gifts. They feed us and help our societies and economies to thrive. Some 2.5 billion agricultural smallholders worldwide....


  • Food systems and natural resources

    Global food systems have radically changed over the last 50 years. Food production has more than  doubled, diets have become more varied (and often more energy-intense) satisfying people’s preferences ...


  • Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water Use and Water Pollution

    Global trends point to a relative decoupling of water – that is, the rate of water resource use is increasing at a rate slower than that of economic growth. The Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from...


  • Green energy choices: The benefits, risks and trade-offs of low-carbon technologies for electricity production

    This report represents the first in-depth international comparative assessment of the environmental, health and resource impacts of different low-carbon technologies for electricity production… ...


  • International Trade in Resources: A Biophysical Assessment                                                                                                                          

    This latest report from the IRP analyses the role of international trade in increasing resource efficiency, reducing environmental impact and promoting equitable and inclusive growth? ...


  • Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption with Sustainable Supply

    This report explores how the management of land-based biomass production and consumption can be developed towards a higher degree of sustainability across different scales: from the sustainable...


  • Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials

    This report focuses not on the effects of environmental pressure, but on its causes. It describes pressures as resulting from economic activities. These activities are pursued for a purpose, ...


  • City Level Decoupling: Urban Resource Flows and the Governance of Infrastructure Transitions

    This report examines the potential for decoupling at the city level. While the majority of the worlds population now live in cities and cities are where most resource consumption takes place, ...


  • Measuring Water Use in a Green Economy
     

    Water is an essential resource for virtually all aspects of human enterprise, from agriculture via urbanization to energy and industrial production. Equally, the many uses for water create pressures...


  • Decoupling Natural Resources Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth

    Humankind has witnessed phenomenal economic and social development in the past century. However, there are increasing signs that it has come at a cost to the environment and to the availability of ...


  • Towards Sustainable Production and Use of Resources: Assessing Biofuels

    This report provides an overview of the key problems and perspectives and use of biofuels. It is based on an extensive literature study, taking into account recent major reviews.


  • Building Natural Capital: How REDD+ can Support a Green Economy

    This report advocates placing REDD+ into a larger planning framework that should involve multiple influences (especially those driving deforestation, albeit sometimes inadvertently).


  • Decoupling 2: Technologies, Opportunities and Policy Options
     

    This report was produced by the Decoupling Working Group of the IRP. It explores technological possibilities and opportunities for both developing and developed countries to ...


  • Metal Stocks in Society: Scientific Synthesis
     

    The continued increase in the use of metals over the twentieth century has led to a substantial shift from geological resource base to metal stocks in society. This report reviews the relevant literature on this topic.


  • Recycling Rates of Metals: A Status Report
     

    In theory, metals can be used over and over again, minimizing the need to mine and process virgin materials and thus saving substantial amounts of energy and water while minimizing environmental ...


  • Environmental Risks and Challenges of Anthropogenic Metals Flows and Cycles

    This report focuses on the impact of metals on the environment as well as on their life cycle energy use. Currently primary metals production is responsible for 78 % of the total global energy use ...


  • Metal Recycling: Opportunities, Limits, Infrastructure
     

    A key question that relates to the very broad and intensive use of metals is whether society needs to be concerned about long-term supplies of any or many of them. This is a many-faceted question ...