From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing much
Mains level : Sustainable food production
Feeding a planet of 7.7 billion people is not easy.
- Every person on the planet has the right to a healthy diet.
- Every farmer has the right to a decent livelihood.
- The roughly ten million other species on the planet need a habitat in which they can survive.
- Every business that produces, processes and transports food needs and expects to earn a profit.
Challenges to food security
- Over 820 million people are chronically hungry.
- Another two billion or so suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamins or proteins.
- Around 650 million adults are obese. This is caused in part by ultra-processed foods stuffed with sugar, saturated fats, and other chemical additives.
Agri Industry – Issues
- Healthfulness of products – Too few companies report on the healthfulness of their product lines or how their products contribute to healthy and sustainable dietary patterns.
- Environmental contribution – Too few recognize that they are part of the environmental crisis, either directly in their own production, or as buyers of products produced in environmental hotspots such as the Amazon or Indonesia.
- Tax practices – Companies don’t report in detail on their tax practices.
Agri industry – what can be done
- It is a powerhouse of the global economy.
- Solving food crises needs the industry to change its ways.
- Their practices are the main cause of deforestation, freshwater depletion and pollution, soil erosion, and the collapse of biodiversity.
- Human-induced climate change is wreaking havoc on crop production.
- In 2015, all 193 members of the United Nations agreed unanimously to two vital agreements.
- Agenda 2030 – adopts 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a roadmap to human well-being and planetary safety.
- Paris climate agreement – commits the world’s governments to take decisive action to keep global warming to less than 1.5º Celsius.
- All companies in the food sector should adopt clear guidelines, metrics and reporting standards to align with the global goals.
- Each company must address four critical questions:
- Do their products and strategies contribute to healthy and sustainable diets? The fast-food culture has to change to promote healthy diets.
- Too many companies are engaged in chemical pollution, massive waste from packaging, deforestation, excessive and poorly targeted fertilizer use, and other environmental ills.
- Company’s upstream supplier’s sustainability – no consumer food company should use products from farms that contribute to deforestation.
- Good corporate behavior – aggressive tax practices that exploit legal loopholes should be avoided, as they deprive governments of the revenues needed to promote public services.
Around the world, young people are demanding a sustainable and safe way of living and doing business. Companies will change. The business sector must urgently recognize, acknowledge and act upon its global responsibilities.