The global food system is the most critical range of human activities in history. It keeps billions fed and stimulates invention and ingenuity. As the population increases, the system will evolve and innovate to meet demand. Here are eight things that our current food system does right.
Decades Of Massive Production Increases
Our intensive, industrial farming techniques grow food faster and in more significant amounts than traditional methods. The productivity growth has outpaced the increase in world population since the end of World War II, and we make more calories and grams of protein per person than in any other period. Indeed, experts estimate a yearly worldwide 20% caloric surplus.
Plummeting Consumer Costs
Advances in production, processing, storage, and distribution have lowered overhead system-wide. Now, staple foods are cheaper than ever and affordable for people with lower incomes. Furthermore, nations without the means to produce their own food can import it at a lower cost.
Better Global Accessibility And Distribution
According to U.N. reports, the global proportion of undernourished people fell from 15% in 2000 to 8.9% in 2019. Moreover, the percentage of children under five who suffered stunted growth from poor nutrition fell from 33% to 21.3% in the same period. There is some evidence this could reverse course due to the COVID pandemic and extreme weather, but the data are not yet available.
The demands on our food system are growing continuously. Over the past decades, every part of the food system has responded with innovation. Whether it's more potent fertilizer, extra powerful machinery, or increasingly advanced software, innovation from the food system has pushed technology forward in all industries.
Enduring Source Of Employment and Opportunity
To the surprise of many, automation has not eliminated jobs from the food system. Instead, the nature of the jobs has changed. Farming is more labor-intensive than ever and employs billions worldwide in every society. In addition, agriculture, processing, and retail stimulate local economies and grow the wealth in every community.
Increased Availability Of Varied Foods
Many technological innovations in the food system increase shelf life and facilitate speedy transportation. These improvements allow our infrastructure to provide nutrition more efficiently, especially to regions that suffered from historical food stress. Moreover, even in affluent countries, these advances vary diets and promote better nutrition. For example, Canadians can eat pineapples in the dead of winter, while Europeans can order Alaskan salmon.
Consistent Growth In Efficiency
Our intensive food system is growing in efficiency all the time. Over the past seven decades, the resource intensity per unit of food has decreased. The resources include soil nutrients, freshwater, and land area. Likewise, the amount of pesticides and fertilizer per unit of food has decreased. Most importantly for the environment, greenhouse gas emissions per unit of food have also decreased.
Promising Alternatives To Intensive Practices
In countries that can afford research and development, promising new technologies are on the horizon. These include vertical farming, urban gardens, synthetic proteins, aquaponics, etc. Although these new technologies only account for a small amount of food production, they are increasing and becoming more affordable to employ.
- Make use of accessibility. Varied diets are healthy, and importing food from around the world spreads wealth. When wealthier countries import food from poorer countries, it supports growth and prosperity among the historically disadvantaged. When possible, support food production in poorer regions.
- If your business is forward-thinking, look into investing in alternative food production. Support markets and restaurants that source food from innovative facilities.
- Learn about the cons of our current food systems.