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TEEB for Agriculture & Food: Scientific and Economic Foundations report

Communities across the world are becoming more interested in eating a healthy, nutritious, and low-footprint diet. But there remains a big disconnect between consumers, producers, and the impact current production and consumption patterns have on the environment and climate. What can you do? The good news is that fighting climate change can start with each meal.

From clearing forests to producing fertilizer to packaging food, global food production now contributes about 43 to 57 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), according to a TEEBAgriFood Report just launched.

Corporations and large-scale producers are often subsidized to grow select staple crops, which are typically grown in monocultures—making the crops cheaper to produce, but also stripping the soils of nutrients. Today, one-third of the Earth’s soil is moderately to highly degraded, leaving our food with fewer nutrients to nourish us.

While this system makes food cheaper and more accessible right now, the unaccounted for damage on both the environment and human health comes at a far greater cost down the line.

Worldwide, six of the top eleven risk factors driving disease are diet-related. And the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the global direct costs of diabetes to be more than US$827 billion per year. As processed foods replace fresh vegetables, meat, and grains, health problems associated with obesity and micronutrient deficiencies are increasing.

Continuing with business as usual in the global food system is not an option. Right now, around 40 percent of Earth’s available land is used for growing food. Experts are predicting that the global population will reach nearly 10 billion by the year 2050. To feed 10 billion the way we currently practice agriculture, we would need to increase food production by 70 percent.

The TEEBAgriFood ‘Scientific and Economic Foundations’ report addresses the core theoretical issues and controversies underpinning the evaluation of the nexus between the agri-food sector, biodiversity and ecosystem services and externalities including human health impacts from agriculture on a global scale. It argues the need for a 'systems thinking' approach, draws out issues related to health, nutrition, equity and livelihoods, presents a Framework for evaluation and describes how it can be applied, and identifies theories and pathways for transformational change.

TEEB-Agri-Food has developed an Evaluation Framework for evaluating food and agricultural systems in a holistic manner that reflects ‘systems thinking’, i.e., one which is:

  • comprehensive in that it addresses not just on-farm production functions but also all significant externalities of a system, be they positive or negative,
  • universal in that it is one common framework for evaluations by different decision-makers from their distinct perspectives and different influences on food systems, and
  • value-chain based in that it recognizes value-chain links and causalities, supporting evaluation of impacts from upstream inputs to production to markets, processing, distribution and consumption, including impacts on human health.

Measuring what matters in agriculture and food systems: a synthesis of the results and recommendations of TEEB for Agriculture and Food’s Scientific and Economic Foundations Report (84 pages). Read the key messages and suggested steps for improvement