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Food of tomorrow: How to feed the world without destroying the planet?

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We produce enough food to feed 10 billion people, so why are hunger, malnutrition and lack of access to quality food still leading causes of death worldwide? Some answers can be found in food loss and waste, lack of fair distribution and the overabundance of processed foods. Conflicts, climate change, inequality and COVID-19 further aggravate the problem and drive food insecurity. On top of that, the food production system risks destroying its own foundation as it has an enormous negative environmental impact. The meat industry contributes significantly to worldwide CO2 emissions and pesticides pollute and destroy whole ecosystems.

  • How can we feed the world’s population without destroying the environment, the foundation of food production?
  • How can the food system become more resilient after COVID-19 and ensure food producers aren’t underpaid and exploited?
  • How can we ensure sustainable and healthy choices are available and affordable for everyone?
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The European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) has selected some of its resources to provide young people like you with background information and insights linked to the topic above.

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15 February 2021

Within EU agriculture, I would increase the importance of the smaller businesses that run their farms as family and live there. While taking care of not destroying their environment and operating sustainably, they are also integrated in the local social community. If these smaller food producing industries were strengthened, less transport would be needed, which is better for the environment. Especially during the pandemic having local producers is a big advantage. Therefore, my proposal would be to strengthen locally integrated family businesses.

12 February 2021

Reduction of food loss and food waste using a life cycle thinking and fighting the food waste towards education.
In particularly we can ensure a sustainable and healthy choise towards a thinking idea where upcycled food is possible and it can give only an added value at the food system chain.

Patricia Rodrigues
28 January 2021

At a city/municipality level, the best way to optimize food consumption is by reducing both transport and waste.
To produce food locally and with less water/CO2 emissions, we should promote vertical farming as well indoor farming, to make sure people can optimize the amount of food per square meter and optimizing the resources needed --> Local municipalities can be a driven force here, by reutilizing/repurposing otherwise unused older buildings/structures and supporting small businesses who take up these innovative ways of farming
Also, public spaces can be transformed into edible gardening plants instead of just decorative flora accompanied by small notes who share with the citizen what kind of edible that is (most people are unaware that many plants they don't find typically in the supermarket can also be eaten). This way there is another purpose for the public gardens in our cities.
Local governments can also promote the usage of public spaces like community gardens to incentivize the people to be more involved in the process of growing their own food - or if they do not have the time for it, that they can pay a small fee to get "season" vegetables from this local community garden delivered at their homes. --> this would create the possibility for "city farmers"
Permaculture and such farming philosophies are also showing better environmental impact and more healthy food (since pesticides are not used), so (local) governments could promote tax benefits for the farmers who adopt these strategies. Monocultures are generally not sustainable for the future of the soils, which makes farmers more prone to loss of yield due to environmental disasters (such as drought or flooding) and more dependent on having "good weather".

When it comes to waste, local authorities have a very important role in how the city takes care of its trash: - it would be important to have a network to collect food that is "not good to sell any more" but still edible that could be distributed by foodbanks or people in need, used to make compost or animal food that could be brought to the farmers.
-The amount of trash produced by the household would be taxed based on weight produced (instead of the trash collection fees a lot of us already pay) to force consumers to produce less waste, as well as big supermarket chains.
- Create an "ugly food market" with vegetables and fruits that don't make it to the stores and also with byproducts that could be made from those (i.e., soups, sauces, vinegar, wine, beer, jams, pickles, etc.) but not necessarily just food-related like soaps, "leathers" and all these new material alternatives coming to the markets today.
- Promote food sharing communities, for example, left-over exchange (especially for those who always cook too much but don't like to eat multiple times the same food)

As a start, these were all the ideas I could think of that would be more focused on the local governments. Granted that they might be more "city-friendly" than for rural communities. Hope they are helpful!

25 January 2021

Lower food waste during production and transport, fund ideas that help protect the food better until it arrives consumers.
Fund vertical farming research and initiatives.
Pick ugly fruits and vegetable that are likely going to remain unsold to use for juices and extracts

Theodor Ilie
25 January 2021

- we use bio and eco agriculture, we create and support diets that give as much as posible for the land we have. By consuming more fruits, vegetables, cereals and less meat.

Antonino Ballacchino
21 January 2021

Today, we live in an ever-built world with very few green lungs. Another issue, then, is food! Much, too much, is wasted, and with it all the polluting elements needed to treat, pack and ship it. In my opinion, a good idea would be to grow a small vegetable garden at home! Indeed, there are special kits that allow you to create your own gardens in comfortable cages to be placed on terraces or balconies or in house gardens. These bioactive gardens would lead to incredible benefits for the environment, such as a significant increase in oxygen in large cities, a reduction in the production costs of basic necessities, the complete elimination of highly polluting elements for production, packaging and shipping , more genuine produces, a much higher production capacity and there would be no need for any fertilizers. However, this idea is very little widespread, and there are few allocated funds and reselling companies. Therefore, I invite you to further encourage this very advantageous and useful activity for the planet.

Lisa Eichhöfer
15 January 2021

In my city, which is Berlin, many young people, that I know are doing foodsharing. This is primarily a platform, where users do a post, when they have too much food in their fridge which they wont eat anymore. In addition, some supermarkets have contracts with private people, who can come in the end of the day or week or month to pick up goods which would otherwise be thrown into the rubbish. About 30 percent (probably more) of food is lost annually due to lacking production processes, and our attitude to throw it away too quickly. Imagine how much energy could be saved, if we figure these losses out...

First thing, which needs to happen, is that we create another attitude towards the best before date. Moreover we could think of another label, like ``still good`` or the possibility to get goods cheaper when they are not meeting the very high standards anymore.

Secondly, ``containering`` should simply not be illegal anymore. Even when it is a grey zone, people can still get punished, if they take goods out of a supermarkets rubbish container. Actually ideas like this should be widespreaded even more.

Above this, the unnecessary tall plastic packages for all kinds of foods (which just make the product itself seem bigger for the consumptor) need to be forbidden, to reduce plastic waste.

Anna Kar
12 January 2021

Recently I found on Instagram profile of local farmer who sells his products in box with home delivery. What an amazing idea! But unfortunately very unpopular, as I ask among my friends.

The idea is very simple: create some kind of online market, encouragning smaller local farmers to sell their product through the platform. Free for users website where you can choose what kind of vegetable and fruits (and more) you would like to receive, making sure they come straight from the eco farms. It is good solution for young people, who often prefer online shopping, it doesn't require carrying heavy shopping home, the boxes and their content can be easily packed, without using plastic bags.

Farmers usually sell their products regularly on fairs, yet often those are older people, with less knowledge of using internet technology to promote themselves. The small companies can't really afford to pay for big advertisement. Easy to use platform could make a change.

It is also good solution during pandemic, to avoid crowded places :)

Diana Pacheco
16 October 2020

What do the speakers think about seaweeds harvesting/ aquaculture as a sustainable and nutraceutical food source?
Can seaweed be a useful food tool to fight the pandemic covid-19?

Alba García Montagud
16 October 2020

Guaranteeing access to healthy food is the basis for a society in order to develop. Hunger and poverty's first key issue is food and water suply. Guaranteeing these basic needs is a good starting point to fight against extreme poverty. I believe nationalising and having a certain public land used for agricultural feeding purposes could be a good option to study. This doesn't mean all land should be owned by the state, but instead of applying the tipycal claims of right wing governments (in Spain's case for example) which ask for a national bank to reduce inequality, we should instead start thinking about an agricultural public national solution which can actually ensure the provision of food to the most vulnerable population in a country.

Lastly, a sustainable and equal distribution is necessary to avoid all the food that is wasted daily whilst others are suffering maltrunition. It is key to find an efficient and effective method of redistribution to avoid, from one side, all of the food spanish agriculturers end up throwing away due to being unable to sell their products as a consequence of low prices, and on the other, we must find methods to collect and reduce all supermarket and daily food that is beeing thrown away.

15 October 2020

I am a researcher on natural resources management in arid countries. I agree with Guillermo, the current ideology presents several critical issues in addressing sustainable food security for all, I want to point out few things:

1 Local production and consumption it is easier to be achieved if imported products are taxed and if transported products are taxed.

2 Local production and consumption goes against the GOD, so a balance should be found.

3 Local production and consumption require small scale farming for a diverse and resilient production, hence small scale farms (approximately from 5 to 25 ha).

4 Modern and industrial agriculture is done mainly to feed animals to produce meat, hence the consumption of meat should be reduced and integrated in small scale farming in a regenerative agriculture framework to eliminate dependence on external fertilizers and GMOs.

15 October 2020

I think the European Union must promote small-scale regenerative agriculture and discourage extensive agriculture and industrial farming through a careful policy of taxation and incentives.

15 October 2020

A lot depends on our comsumption habits (European citizens).
Long supply chains and big industries are responsible for tremendous food losses, waste and often food insecurity in developing countries.
We need to change our consumption trends (buying ethically, buying locally produced goods). we need shorter supply chains and to depend less on imported goods

Guillermo Díaz
15 October 2020

No it's not. A plant based diet would help to reduce some of the contamination, but it would create some other problems like the Avocados in Mexico or Chile or the loss of biodiversity a cause of massive monocultivism (quinoa in The Andes, for example).
More than a campaign of MeatfFreeMondays we need a campaing for buying our local products and season legumes and fruits. Because in order that we, europeans, have everything in our supermarkets all the year, tones of petrol are burned in the transcontinental ships. And it's better not to talk about the labour and the human conditions of the people that produce our food in the other extreme of the world. And not only there, in Spain we have people in semi-slavery conditions in our fields. The prices of the diet your propose will increase, and again, the workers wont see a euro or better conditions. The only profit will be for the enterprises who play with green capitalism

15 October 2020

Food has become such a important topic in our society. It polarizes like never before and people identify themselves by their way of nutrition.
But what we forget, is that food doesn't grow in supermarkets and that is a long process linked with a lot of external factors. We should educate our kids and also adults more about the whole process and learn to be grateful again about what the soil is giving us.
Laws should be forcing supermarktes to also put "ugly" products in to the shelf. We should get rid of the "best before date" on a lot of products.
And we should make it easier for people to get access to a piece of land in order to grow their food or at least to make local food more accessable and affortable. Seeds that don't reproduce themselves should be baned from the market, why does the bio-engereering lobby has such a big word on what is allowed to plant and what not?!

15 October 2020

I totally agree with you in increasing our fields productivity by the use of GMOs. But I don't think that making a ''second class food'' is a good idea. We would be creating a bigger problem. First of all, the risk of increasing prices. Having two markets for food, would make more expensive the fresh products, affordable only for those who can and want to pay for them, in these case the major part of the society wouldn't mind to pay some more cents or euros for a healthier diet; so in the second market would be ''cheaper'' but less healthy. Second, inequality, again the richer will have the privilege of eating quality and fresh products from their supermarkets. This can produce a social stigma about buying in the second class markets, which are for ''poor people'' (imagine how can it be for the children having to put up with all kind of comments).
Third, health system problems. Having a second class food market will increase the gastrointestinals diseases. Again, our public health systems will have to pay for the diseases created by the capitalist way of production (in thise case, private food companies and markets). We socialize looses and privatize earnings. Amazing.
Fourth, putting on the responsability in the ''poor people'' for buying the second class food is dangerous and awful. It's not their responsability because society are pushing them to buy it. It's the only option we give them. Saying that they would buy ''at their own risk'' it's totally a fault of respect for human dignity. Which is the price for not running these risk? Not eating??

Guillermo Díaz Estrella
15 October 2020

My name is Guillermo Díaz and I'm a economics student in the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Pretending to make a real change that lead us to an equal distribution of the resources under the capitalist system is useless and senseless. Capitalism (including socialdemocracy) is designed to maximize the profits, even though that means exploting the resources until they are totally finished (nature, humans...).
The only way usefull for changing our food production system is to move from an globalized capitalist production to a local and social production. At the moment the system is based in productivity and competitivism, which allows that, for example, Spain was one of the countries that more citrics exported and imported.
It also applies for the meat production, passing from the intensitive production to the extensive production will reduce the gas emissions, clean the forests and reduce the forestal fires.
For making it affordable to all the society is as easy as nacionalize and socialize all the production systems and make it based on the common wealth and not in the capitalist earnings. The administration should control
And for make it possible is necessary to have a fiscal and banking union in the UE or to break with the UE. We are in an intermediate point where the different fiscal systems and the way the euro as a divisa is done, are affecting to the southern countries in beneffit for the northern.

Cantemir Păcuraru
15 October 2020

How about renouncing the idea of large-scale agriculture to sustain starving populations, by means of import, and instead focus on small scale local agriculture by employing permaculture practices?

12 October 2019

A whole food plant based diet is the healthiest diet!

Anssi Eboreime
04 September 2019

What we need are the following, an EU encompassing law against food waste. This is to say that stores which would normally throw away food past it's sell-by date are now forced to donate said food to designated resale places or designated food distributors, or must set up some sort of distribution system themselves. This way poorer people may AT THEIR OWN RISK get access to these free (or very cheap) products. The second issue is to increase the usage of GMO foods. We must allow for more companies to enter the GMO market by cutting red tape and lowering the barrier in such a way that smaller companies may join the fray instead of only the giants like Monsanto and Bayer can be there. This way we create more competition, more variance in products and thus better and cheaper products with higher yields.

Nerea Marín
02 August 2019

How important is it our diet? What if a country’s productivity depends on the amount of fruit and vegetables their citizens consume?

02 August 2019

Perhaps a plant-based diet is the best way to reduce our negative impact on the environment? Food that is animal-deriven is more costly, uses more water and often needs more land. Can we convince more people to reduce their meat and dairy intake, with initiatives like #MeatFreeMondays?