How the future of food impacts our planet

How does what I put on my plate affect my health? How is our planet affected by the choices we make? These questions and more were the topics of discussion during the Nobel Week Dialogue in December, with Nobel laureates, and food and climate experts on the panel.

“The Future of Food” was the overarching theme, and Johan Rockström, director at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, started the discussion by emphasising that the choices we make over the next 50 years will determine the next 100,000 years of humanity, with decisions concerning food being the most important. According to Johan Rockström, world agriculture is the single largest:

  • Emitter of greenhouse gases, excluding deforestation
  • Consumer of freshwater (approx. 70% of blue water withdrawals)
  • User of land (40% of the terrestrial land area is transformed to agriculture)
  • Source of biodiversity loss

He concluded, “If we get it right on food, we are very likely to get it right for planet Earth.”

Meeting sustainable development goals

Sustainable, healthy food systems and diets are needed in order to succeed with the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO and Head of Mission at FANRPAN, gave an African perspective of the situation: “Africa spends about 48 billion USD on imports of food a year, 12-15% of that is wheat. But when I grew up, we had a diversity of crops,” she said. She pointed out the need for what she called a “rainbow revolution”, where farmers are not only producing a single crop for income, but rather a range of crops for food.

She added that “currently, 75% of our food comes from just 12 crops and 5 animal species. We need to diversify the plate”.