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677. Environmental Impacts of Food Production

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Our World In Data, a platform designed to promote the use of information to solve global problems, has published a dashboard for exploring data on the environmental impacts of food production. 

The special feature summarizes the environmental impacts of food production as follows:

① Food production accounts for 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
② Agriculture accounts for 50% of the world's habitable land (land that is ice- or desert-free).
③ Agriculture uses 70% of the global freshwater withdrawals.
④ Agriculture accounts for 78% of the global ocean and freshwater eutrophication (water pollution caused by nutrient runoff from land, such as fertilizers, sewage, and animal waste).
⑤ Livestock accounts for 94% of non-human mammal biomass, which means that the weight ratio of livestock to wild mammals is 15:1.
⑥ Poultry accounts for 71% of biomass biomass, which means that livestock outweigh wild animals by a factor of more than 3:1.

What is often said about the production process is that the environmental impact of animal products is higher than that of plant foods. At the same time, the negative environmental impact of the production process varies greatly depending on the characteristics of the country or region and the production system, with some studies showing a difference of more than 10 times.

In light of these facts, what we eat and how we produce will have a significant impact on our ability to combat climate change, reduce water stress and pollution, restore the land, and protect the world's wildlife.

According to an editorial in Nature, almost all climate change targets and strategies to conserve the world's biodiversity call for maintaining or reducing agricultural land at current levels. However, in order to feed a global population that is expected to grow to about 10 billion by 2050, it is estimated that grain production will need to increase by 40-60% over 2010 levels. Even assuming higher yields, an expansion of 100-400 million hectares of farmland worldwide is considered inevitable. In addition to further improving grain and livestock productivity, demand for commodities with lots of land must be reduced.

The European Union (EU) is known for promoting policies and strategies to reduce the environmental impact of food production, and on December 6, the day before the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, it was reported that the EU market had agreed to legislation on food regulations that lead to global deforestation and forest degradation.

The bill itself was submitted 12 months ago, but the final draft agreement will require traceability from the agricultural land where commodity crops are produced and procured, regardless of whether they are legal or illegal. Once the new policy is in effect, companies will be required to conduct strict due diligence procedures when importing and exporting palm oil, beef cattle, soy, coffee, cocoa, timber, rubber, and related products (such as beef, furniture, chocolate, etc.) in the EU market. These developments in Europe are expected to have an impact on the food strategies of countries and regions around the world.


Contributors: Solongo TUMUR and IIYAMA Miyuki (Information Program)


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