What Is the Impact of Your Food Choices?
Challenges to Nature and Humanity's Well-being
percent of total freshwater resources used in food crop production are lost in the different stages of food loss and waste
billion tons of food waste are generated globally, resulting in approximately 3.3 gigatons of CO2 equivalent emissions per year
percent of global ocean and freshwater eutrophication is caused by agriculture
percent of the world’s habitable land (ice- and desert-free) is used for agriculture
As it stands today, food production poses a significant ecological challenge. The conventional methods employed in agriculture and aquaculture have led to deforestation, soil degradation, water pollution, and biodiversity loss. Relying on chemical fertilizers, intensive land use, and industrialized farming practices have affected our planet's health.
IMP<br />ACT


Analyzing the environmental consequences of different animal protein production, challenges such as deforestation, water pollution, and methane emissions.
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Sustainable protein sources. Exploring the advantages of fish as a protein source, focusing on nutritional value and resource efficiency.
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Understand the environmental consequences of food production methods, including land use and water pollution.
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Need to overcome challenges in scaling organic production including the environmental challenges related to eutrophication in aquaculture.
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Discover how sustainable food production can mitigate climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote ecosystem health.
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Explore challenges in specific or emerging food production methods, consumer preferences and habits that influence adopting these methods.
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Anyone insisting that you 'calm down' about climate change is living in denial about the catastrophes that are at our doorstep.
Mark Ruffalo
Mark Ruffalo Actor, activist
Food choices are something fundamental you can control about yourself: what you take into your body. When so many other things are out of control and your influence over climate change - all these much larger issues - it's very hard to see any results or any progress. But everybody can see progress around food.
Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan Author and journalist
Instead of sitting on the sidelines, President Obama has made it clear that the US is ready to lead a global effort to combat climate change.
Valerie Jarrett
Valerie Jarrett CEO of the Obama Foundation

Producing food causes emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases in various ways, including through deforestation and clearing of land for agriculture and grazing, digestion by cows and sheep, the production and use of fertilizers and manure for growing crops, and the use of energy to run farm equipment or fishing boats, usually with fossil fuels. All this makes food production a significant contributor to climate change. Also, greenhouse gas emissions come from the packaging and distribution of food.

Fish Efficiency Paradox

Description: Fish are acknowledged for their efficiency compared to terrestrial animals, attributed to a favorable Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR) and a smaller environmental footprint. Increased efficiency minimizes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and environmental impact in food production systems.
Importance: Lower efficiency leads to amplified GHG emissions, higher resource demands, expanded farming, damage to natural carbon sinks, reduced biodiversity, elevated global warming, and challenges in complying with climate agreements like the Paris Agreement.

Aquaculture Expansion and Water Resources

Description: Aquaculture has experienced explosive growth and is projected to double by 2050 to meet seafood demand. However, freshwater resources are limited, with only a tiny percentage readily available for human use.
Importance: Balancing aquaculture expansion with water scarcity highlights the critical need for sustainable water management approaches to support aquaculture operations without depleting limited freshwater resources essential for human survival.

The shift from Fishmeal to Plant-Based Feeds

Description: Aquaculture historically relied on fishmeal and oil for fish feed, straining wild populations. Transitioning to sustainable plant-based feeds is vital to relieve pressure on marine ecosystems.
Importance: Shifting from fishmeal presents challenges in finding sustainable alternatives. Large-scale production of plant-based feeds like soy, corn, wheat, and palm oil offers a promising solution. Still, it raises concerns about industrialized agriculture practices that may contribute to deforestation and other environmental issues.

The challenge of feeding 9.8 billion people sustainably by 2050 is much more complicated than people realize

The Paris Agreement—United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—UNFCCC COP 21, which aims to limit global warming, offers a crucial step towards a sustainable future for humanity. 

While achieving a sustainable future for humanity is essential, food production presents a complex challenge. Feeding a growing population requires significant production, yet some current methods significantly contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. This unsustainable approach includes excessive use of chemical fertilizers, deforestation for cropland expansion, intensive livestock production, overfishing, and unethical aquaculture practices. These practices disrupt ecosystems (natural carbon sinks), increase greenhouse gas emissions, and exacerbate global warming. The resulting stress on weather patterns leads to droughts, floods, and extreme weather events, further threatening food security by reducing yields, making harvests unpredictable, and increasing pest problems.

Emissions from food alone would take us past 1.5°C or 2°C this century, but we have a range of opportunities to avoid this. Even if we stopped burning fossil fuels tomorrow – an impossibility – we would still go well beyond our 1.5°C target, and nearly miss our 2°C one. Ignoring food emissions is simply not an option if we want to get close to our international climate targets.

The challenge: Can we reduce agricultural emissions and adapt food production to a changing climate, all while ensuring enough food is produced? 

Paris Agreement's Goal & Why it Matters for Food Production

The Paris Agreement is an international treaty adopted in 2015 by almost all countries worldwide. Its main goal is to tackle climate change and limit global warming. Here's how it connects to food production:

Paris Agreement and Climate Change:

  • The agreement aims to keep global warming below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels, ideally aiming for 1.5°C.
  • Climate change is caused by greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat in the atmosphere.

Climate Change and Food Production:

  • A warming planet disrupts weather patterns, leading to more extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and heat waves.
  • These disruptions can have a devastating impact on agriculture:
    • Lower crop yields: Less food is produced overall.
    • Unpredictable harvests: Farmers struggle to plan and manage their crops.
    • Increased pest and disease problems: Warmer temperatures create ideal conditions for pests and diseases to thrive.

Food Production and Emissions:

  • Ironically, the way we currently produce food also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions:
    • Livestock: Cows and other animals burp methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
    • Rice cultivation: Wet rice paddies release methane gas.
    • Deforestation for agriculture: Clearing land for farming releases stored carbon dioxide.

Agriculture is one of the largest contributors to exceeding planetary boundaries, as currently understood. Crop agriculture accounts for 72 percent of freshwater consumption, 61 percent of nitrogen runoff pollution, and 32 percent of terrestrial biodiversity loss. Livestock agriculture is estimated to be the most significant contributor to biodiversity loss (53 percent), and phosphorus pollution is the second-largest contributor to nitrogen runoff and deposition (51 percent).

The Intersection

The Paris Agreement pushes for a transformation of the food system. We need to find ways to grow food that:

  • Reduce emissions from agriculture to mitigate climate change.
  • Adapt food production methods to become more resilient to a changing climate.
  • Ensure enough food is produced to feed the growing global population.

This could involve practices like

  • Ecologically sustainable farming techniques that reduce reliance on chemical fertilizers.
  • Investing in research and development of drought-resistant crops.
  • Reducing food waste throughout the supply chain.

The Paris Agreement (it was adopted at the UNFCCC COP 21 meeting in Paris, France, on December 12, 2015) is a global effort to combat climate change, a significant threat to food production. By working together, we can create a more sustainable food system that ensures food security for all.

We need to:

  • Reduce emissions while ensuring enough food is produced.
  • Help small-scale farmers adapt to a changing climate.
  • Find sustainable ways to grow food with a lower environmental footprint.

Without significant changes in agricultural practices and more substantial commitments to emissions reduction, achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and ensuring global food security will be extremely difficult.

  • Falling Short of Emission Reduction Targets: The world isn't on track to meet the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global warming. National climate targets (NDCs) are insufficient, and emissions continue to rise in the agricultural sector.
  • Vulnerability of Farmers: Climate change poses a significant threat to farmers. Rising temperatures, droughts, floods, and extreme weather events can reduce yields, damage crops, and disrupt food production.
  • Impact on Food Security: Climate change can lead to food insecurity, especially in developing countries. Disruptions in food production can raise prices and make food less accessible.
  • High Emissions from Agriculture: The food system significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from livestock, fertilizer use, and land-use changes like deforestation for agriculture.
  • Limited Adaptation for Small-Scale Farmers: Small-scale farmers, often most vulnerable to climate change, lack the resources and support to adapt their practices and build resilience.

Achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement requires a significant shift in how we produce food, focusing on mitigation and adaptation strategies.

  • More Ambitious Policies: Countries need to raise their national climate targets and implement stricter regulations to curb emissions from agriculture.
  • Supporting Small-Scale Farmers: Investments are needed to enhance the resilience of small-scale farmers by providing access to climate-smart technologies, financial support, and knowledge sharing.
  • Sustainable Practices: Food companies must adopt responsible sourcing practices and invest in reducing emissions throughout their supply chains.Transforming Food Systems:   The food industry needs to prioritize ecologically sustainable production practices, reduce its environmental footprint, and ensure fair trade practices for small-scale producers.
  • Transforming Food Systems: The food industry needs to prioritize ecologically sustainable production practices, reduce its environmental footprint, and ensure fair trade practices for small-scale producers.

Metrics and Indicators

This metric measures the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production, including farming, transportation, processing, and packaging. It quantifies the contribution of food production to climate change and helps identify opportunities for reducing emissions through sustainable practices.
The water footprint assesses the total volume of water used throughout the life cycle of a food product. It includes blue water (surface and groundwater consumption), green water (rainwater used for crop growth), and grey water (water required to dilute pollutants). This metric helps manage water resources efficiently and minimize water-related environmental impacts.
Land use metrics quantify the land required for food production, including crop cultivation and pasture for livestock. It helps assess the impact of agriculture on habitat loss, deforestation, and biodiversity conservation. Sustainable practices aim to minimize land use and promote biodiversity-friendly farming methods.
This metric measures the effects of food production on biodiversity, considering habitat destruction and conservation efforts. It helps evaluate the impact of agricultural practices on natural ecosystems and the preservation of species diversity.
Nutrient pollution metrics assess the release of excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, into water bodies. Agricultural runoff significantly contributes to nutrient pollution, water pollution, algal blooms, and ecosystem disruptions.
Energy consumption in food production includes the energy used for planting, harvesting, transportation, processing, and storage. This metric helps identify opportunities for improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Metrics related to pesticide and chemical use quantify the types and quantities of agricultural chemicals used in food production. It helps assess these inputs' environmental and health impacts and promotes adopting sustainable pest management practices.
This metric examines food waste generation and losses throughout the supply chain, from production to consumption. Reducing waste can have a significant positive impact on resource use and environmental sustainability.
Metrics related to soil health assess soil quality, erosion rates, nutrient depletion, and organic matter content. Healthy soils are essential for sustainable food production and contribute to carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation.
This metric focuses on the capture and storage of carbon in soils and vegetation. Sustainable agricultural practices, such as organic farming and agroforestry, promote carbon sequestration, helping mitigate climate change.
Metrics related to pollinator health assess the impact of food production on pollinator populations and biodiversity. Pollinators play a crucial role in crop production and ecosystem functioning, and their conservation is vital for sustainable food systems.
These metrics focus on the social and ethical aspects of food production, including fair labor practices, worker conditions, and community impacts. They help ensure that food production is socially responsible and contributes to the well-being of communities.
Alarming Ecological Impact of Food Production
The ecological impact of food production is alarming. Explore the urgent need to address these challenges and protect our planet for future generations.

Disclosing the Environmental Impact of Food

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