Environment for Food and Nutrition Security

Profound imbalances are increasing pressures on ecosystems to satisfy a growing demand for quantity, quality and diversity of food. This will require substantial changes in the production, consumption and quality of food. We need to produce more food more efficiently, we need to do so in a way that preserves the natural resource base to guarantee adequate food supply for now and future generations, and we need to address the major failings present in the food system today.

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Environmental drivers of food and nutrition insecurity

Technological advancements in the past century have significantly increased world food production, primarily through increased irrigation, fertilizer use and cropland expansion. But unfortunately such gains have also resulted in environmental degradation. By 2008, 24% of the global land area was estimated to have been degraded, and 40% of the world’s agricultural land is undergoing serious degradation and loss of biodiversity. Pollinator services although estimated to provide a value of 353.6 billion USD to agriculture annually, are severely threatened due to habitat loss and pesticide use. Pesticide toxicity has contributed to poisoning up to five million agricultural workers per year, and there is emerging evidence linking it to child stunting. Similarly, oceans, which are crucial for food security through fishing and marine aquaculture, are threatened as a result of overfishing and pollution. Deforestation and forest degradation (frequently driven by agricultural expansion including biofuels) cause an estimated 17.4% of the global greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. As a result of climate change, it is estimated that production will fall by 5–20% across all crops in Sub-Saharan Africa and by 16 million tons in South East Asia.

A sustainable food system approach

Healthy ecosystems can ensure long term access for all to adequate, safe, affordable, diverse and nutritious food. The environment should not be seen only as a risk, but should also be seen as an opportunity - positive linkages need to be actively made between food production and consumption, nutritional health and the underlying social-economic, biophysical and institutional elements which ultimately affect the quantity, quality and affordability of food, while ensuring long term environmental sustainability.

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References can be found at: http://www.unep.org/post2015

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