By: Vicki Hird
Published: Resurgence, May/June 2013

photo credit: FarmStart

While many blame dwindling resources on the world’s growing population, and struggle to find solutions, we at Friends of the Earth have a different perspective. Our focus is on finding ways to manage renewable resources so they aren’t lost to us, or future generations. Key to this is what we do with land and in particular our global food systems.

If you were designing the global food system from scratch, you’d want to ensure that enough food was grown of the right variety in the right way to fulfil 7 billion – and even 9 billion – people’s nutritional needs. By using the right techniques, you could protect the natural systems on which future production depends – soil, water and biodiversity – and you would store surplus food for lean times. You could safeguard good governance of this vital system so that producers, consumers and the planet were fairly treated and were protected from any harmful influence.


We are pursuing key interventions needed on production, consumption and governance to feed ourselves within planetary and social boundaries.


These are our top ten recommendations:
1. Keeping global temperature increases to less than 2°C. Greater temperature increases, which will lead to more extreme weather events, could devastate crop yields in many places.
2. Changing levels of consumption and promoting sustainable diets – critical and significant to reduce greenhouse gases and conserve natural systems.
3. Reducing food waste pre and post harvest, (e.g. through improved food storage and transport systems and better infrastructure) and post consumption.
4. Enhancing yields and increasing resilience to climate change impacts through protecting soils, crop diversification and biodiversity, plus a move towards agroecology.
5. Scrapping mandates for biofuel production from food crops and instead developing efficient vehicles, including electric cars, and enhancing public transport.
6. Increasing nutrient and water resource efficiency.
7. Ensuring low-income access to seeds, land and food, and stopping land grabbing.
8. Shifting trade and other global frameworks to enable and encourage countries to have greater focus on meeting local and regional food needs.
9. Providing agricultural extension services so farmers can access and implement knowledge to enable them to farm more sustainably.
10. Controlling financial speculation on food crops and controlling supermarket and retail buying power where it harms worker, farmer and other suppliers’ abilities to farm sustainably.


Change won’t be easy. Key interventions such as changing diets are poorly understood and perceived as unpopular. But political will is needed to get government, business and individual action on challenging issues such as changing our diets so we eat less meat and eat more of the good green stuff. We’re keen to get your feedback on the challenges ahead and would welcome your thoughts, particularly on sustainable diets.


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