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323. How much does the food we eat truly cost for human, environment and economies?

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As we reported recently, a diverse group of researchers and scientists has been established to discuss the role of science, technology and innovation in achieving the goal of building a sustainable, inclusive and resilient food system in preparation for the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) to be held in September this year. The Scientific Group has been discussing the role of science, technology and innovation in achieving the goal of building a sustainable, inclusive and resilient food system.

Earlier this month, the group of scientists released a report titled The True Cost and True Price of Food. The report poses the question that one of the essential problems of today's food system is that the cost of food, which is not good for our health and environment, is often "externalized" - not reflected in the market price. In economics, externality is a term that refers to cases where the costs of economic activities that produce pollution, for example, are not fully reflected in market prices and are therefore cheap, resulting in undesirable and excessive levels of supply for society. The report found that compared to current global food consumption ($9 trillion), current externalities are twice that amount ($19.8 trillion) and consist of environmental costs ($7 trillion), human health costs ($11 trillion), and economic costs ($1 trillion). This implies that the current price of food is much lower than the cost we should be paying if we take health and environment into consideration.

The existence of externalities and market failures can have unintended negative impacts on current and future generations by causing not only environmental destruction, but also social injustices such as failure to pay for proper labor, food security and ill-health issues. The report proposes the creation of a mechanism to correct the price to reflect the cost of health maintenance and environmental protection.

The UNFSS Scientific Group is organizing Science Days on July 8-9, 2021, hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which will include various dialogues on actions for food system transformation.


Reference

Hendriks S et al. The True Cost and True Price of Food. A paper from the Scientific Group of the UN Food Systems Summit. Draft, 1 June 2021. 
https://sc-fss2021.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/UNFSS_true_cost_of_fo…;

Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Director, Information Program)