Lesson 3: Key Factors of food sustainability

Land

Agricultural land area takes up 38% of the Earth’s land surface and conventional farming practices have led to the loss of carbon and biomass and land degradation.

FAO: “we maximize crop productivity while minimizing the potential environmental impact due to excessive loss of habitats and overuse of natural resources such as soil and water.”

Energy use

The global food system makes a significant contribution to total anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHGs) and air pollutant emissions. In line with the ongoing socioeconomic development trends, food emissions are being increasingly determined by energy use, industrial activities, and waste management and are far more than emissions from the land-based sector. Food needs to be farmed, harvested or caught, transported, processed, packaged, distributed and cooked, and the residuals to disposed and all these processes require energy.

Global warming

In general, meat and dairy products have the highest global footprint of carbon, raw materials, and water per kg of any food. In terms of greenhouse-gas emissions, livestock production generates more than 3 billion tones of CO2 equivalent. Post-farm transport and processing account for only a tiny fraction of the emissions linked to food. Methane and nitrous oxide are two powerful greenhouse gases related to agriculture.

Food losses and food waste

Around 1/3 of the food produced is lost along the food chain. Food losses can occur before, during, and after harvest. Some causes for this include human carelessness, neglect, process inadequacies, and improper packaging.

Lack of education

Children are growing up with little or no knowledge of agriculture, let alone sustainable farming techniques and as a consequence young people do not make sense of the world in which they find themselves and need to make it a better place. It is important to teach about healthy nutrition and food sustainability from the early stage of life since sustainable food production practices and healthy dietary patterns are both vital.