PARIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The UN Environment Programme’s initiative ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’ (TEEB) has initiated a project aiming to show how different food systems and practices can impact the environment, health outcomes and culture.
“We can’t afford taking a ‘business-as-usual’ approach any longer,” says Guillermo Castilleja, Chair of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, one of the project’s key funders. “How we produce, distribute and consume food will need to change if we want to address pressing global challenges like climate change, how to feed a growing population, and access to good food for all.”
Experts have long pointed to the fact that the day-to-day operations of food and agriculture systems are the cause of significant external costs, amounting to some of the highest natural and social capital costs (including health) of any single sector – GHG emissions from livestock are just the tip of the (melting) iceberg.
Alexander Müller, Study Lead for TEEB for Agriculture and Food (TEEBAgFood) says the project approach looks to uncover and put a value on some of the invisible costs and benefits of food production, distribution, consumption and waste: “There’s a cost to implicitly valuing the services nature provides at zero, or close to zero, or not factoring in how farming practices impact the land, the people that work it, and communities.”
There are other studies that look at food production and the “real cost of food” when considering the hidden costs of food production, but this is the first of this scale, aiming to capture the values of ecosystems services, biodiversity and human well-being across global agricultural systems, where a variety of farming, distribution, consumption and waste practices are used.
Müller says that the TEEBAgFood Interim Report presents a valuation framework that will compare global food systems with consideration of dependencies and benefits associated to things like land use change, water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, air, land and water pollution, and waste, along with health impacts from the use of fertilizers and growing obesity rates, as well as impacts on cultural heritage.
“We’re incorporating the voices of stakeholders along the entire food chain, from farm to fork, as well as policy-makers and those already involved in the movement towards a true cost accounting of food. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel; we want to facilitate change,” says Müller.
The study has been commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and is being led by Alexander Müller, Former Assistant Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), and a group on renowned international experts in agri-food supported by the UNEP TEEB Office in Geneva. The Interim Report will be presented as part of the Global Landscapes Forum in Paris on Sunday, December 6th.
Funding partners include the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, the European Commission and the Government of Norway.
The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity is a global initiative focused on “making nature’s values visible.” Its principal objective is to mainstream the values of biodiversity and ecosystem services into decision-making at all levels.
The Global Alliance for the Future of Food is a coalition of foundations committed to leveraging resources to help shift food and agriculture systems towards greater sustainability, security and equity.