Human rights could address the health and environmental costs of food production

A human rights-based approach to food production will have environmental, social and economic benefits


David R Boyd, The Conversation

September 13, 2021


Industrially produced food appears to be cheap but is actually very expensive. Recent estimates of the hidden costs of today’s food systems range from US$12 trillion to US$20 trillion annually. These mind-boggling figures include food’s devastating environmental and human rights impacts and poor health caused by unhealthy diets.


To put these costs in perspective, they are roughly double the total economic value of the global food system.


Feeding eight billion people healthy, sustainable food by 2030 is a monumental challenge. Yet transforming food systems that inflict tens of trillions of dollars in health and environmental damages is essential for realizing human rights.


Industrial food production is a major driver of the planetary environmental emergency. Food systems are responsible for 21 to 37 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, 70 per cent of water use and 80 per cent of the pollution causing eutrophication and marine dead zones.


Agriculture and aquaculture are major threats for 85 per cent of the species identified as threatened with extinction. Deforestation — mainly expanding agricultural land to produce beef, soy and palm oil — is responsible for 30 per cent of the infectious diseases that spillover into humans from wildlife and livestock, raising the risk of pandemics.


Environmental problems are exacerbated by food loss and waste, as an estimated 30 per cent of all food produced is never eaten.


Skyrocketing impacts ...  


Rights and obligations ...


Not an option ... 


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