A new global study has quantified the damage that the modern food industry does to human health, development and the environment costs. The “hidden cost” to the world is $12 trillion a year — equivalent to China’s GDP — says the study by the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), a global alliance of economists and scientists.
The report calls for the world to diversify its food production and consumption. Global over-dependence on a relatively small number of staple foods leaves populations vulnerable to crop failures, with climate change adding to the strain, it said.
“A small disruption in supply really can do a lot of damage and leads to huge price increases. That creates suffering and social unrest. And it will highly likely also lead to hunger and instability,” the Thomson Reuters Foundation quoted Per Pharo of FOLU as saying.
The report proposes a series of solutions, from encouraging more diverse diets to improve health and reduce dependency on specific crops, to giving more support to the types of farming that can restore forests, a key tool in fighting climate change.
What it says about India
The report points out that India has 4 per cent of global freshwater resources to support 19 per cent of the world’s population. Some 80 per cent of water in India goes to agriculture, primarily from groundwater sources. This is unsustainable, it says.
Existing government policies already address critical transitions that the new report recommends, FOLU observes. Among various Indian initiatives, the report mentions the EatRight Movement of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India in 2017, the National Food Security Act of 2013, the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture, and the Zero Budget Natural Farming programme in Andhra Pradesh.