From farm to fork: Importance of sustainable food systems

With the current influx of resources being diminished at an extraordinary rate, concerns regarding the embalming of resources have risen. To preserve better livelihoods for the future generations, sustainable systems require priority.

Lessons from Covid-19

2020’s pandemic was one of the most devastating events in human history. The disruption of markets alongside the destruction of livelihoods made it a dangerous companion to live with. However, Covid-19 also highlighted some of the discrepancies present in current operation of the world. One of the most important highlights during the pandemic was the irregular functioning of food systems.

As a measure to prevent the further spread of Covid-19, globe-wide governments introduced lockdowns. This created a fear in the minds of many, who wondered whether they’d ever be able to leave their house. Consequently, lockdown imposition saw instances of panic buying. Supermarkets were emptied within days and people continued to stock up on food and water. These instances, however, cannot be merely blamed on human behavior.

Panic buying highlighted the issues that plague world-wide food systems. The global food supply chain is highly centralized and operates on a just-in-time supply basis. This makes it difficult for the systems to function in the cases of immediate disaster or, in this case, the pandemic. Shelves couldn’t be restocked because of the conditions of the workers or farmers in the world. The workers and farmers who succumbed to Covid-19 could no longer provide for the market.  

While there are problems in the supply of the global food chain, current agricultural and intensive animal farming practices are contributing to 1/4th of the total greenhouse gas emissions. According to the International Monetary Fund, this number is expected to rise substantially. If practices continued to lead the similar path of today, the agri-food sector is expected to produce half of all greenhouse emissions by 2050.

Benefits and challenges

Considering the IMF data, it is safe to say that a transition to a more sustainable food chain will reduce the forecasted increase in the greenhouse gas emission rates. This transition will bring in environmental benefits that can enhance coping mechanisms in the face of any future disasters as well as combat constantly rising issues such as climate change. Sustainable food systems have the tendency to alleviate social and economic conditions as well.

These food systems provide food security while promoting the growth of local farmers as well. This can uplift the living standards of people hovering just over the poverty line. A rise in local production would also contribute towards decreased dependence on imports. This will reduce the amount of government expenditure spent on imports and concentrate their income stream towards their own country.

While sustainable food systems seem desirable, their attainability is a different ball game. Vested interests, long-standing farming practices and outdated polices are difficult to combat. To invoke the desire of transition within people, incentives need to be laid out. A detailed plan on how sustainable food systems can be equally rewarding might help the desire for individuals to lean towards this approach. Stakeholder collaborations and updated policies can provide solutions to overwhelm this long list of challenges.

The way forward

Sustainable food systems are another important measure to guide the world towards equality. The presence of differences present in the world, whether they are financial or social, can be combated by transforming the food chain. By making viable choices, consumers can dictate the nature in which this change should be asserted. Sustainability shouldn’t be introduced as an option but as a necessity that should be accepted and owned by one and all.

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