Source: Small Island Developing States
26 June 2018: The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Agriculture & Food has released a study that creates a system-wide framework for calculating the “true cost” of agriculture. The report cautions that the current food system is experiencing stress from climate change and water security and is inadequate to feed the world’s growing population and contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda.
TEEB for Agriculture & Food (TEEBAgriFood) aims to provide a comprehensive economic evaluation of eco-agri-food systems. It demonstrates that the economic environment in which farmers operate is distorted by both positive and negative externalities and a lack of awareness of dependency on natural, social, human and produced capital. The eco-agri-food systems complex encompasses ecosystems, agricultural lands, pastures, inland fisheries, labor, infrastructure, technology, policies, culture, institutions and traditions involved in growing, processing, distributing and consuming food. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment) hosts TEEBAgriFood. The Global Alliance for the Future of Food provides the primary funding for the initiative.
The report titled, ‘TEEB for Agriculture and Food: Scientific and Economic Foundations Report,’ argues that understanding the full cost of agriculture is critical to then reflecting that cost in pricing, to ensure that negative impacts are addressed. As an illustration, traditional agriculture measures a crop based on production per acre without considering the impact of that crop on biodiversity, the treatment of workers growing and transporting that crop, or the crop’s impact on food waste. The report addresses this limitation by using a systems thinking approach that examines all impacts of the food system, from the farm to plate to waste, including effects on the environment, human health and workers.
The world can only ensure long-term food security “if our food systems don’t destroy the basis of food production.”
TEEB study leader Alexander Muller emphasized the importance of linking the health of people and the planet, saying the world can only ensure long-term food security “if our food systems don’t destroy the basis of food production.” Muller stressed ecosystems as the “basis for food production” and called for tools that support an assessment of the sustainability of food systems to achieve the 2030 Agenda and contribute to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In the report’s forward UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim supports the report’s recommendations to design and evaluate food systems for their impact on nature and human health, stressing the need to redesign food systems to “do no harm to the environment, improve nutrition for all and ensure decent work.”
The report also addresses the “missing links” in eco-agri-food systems by exploring the impact of food systems on social equity, ethics and justice. It identifies key components of food systems to promote equity throughout production and consumption to ensure that everyone has access to healthy food and the benefits and burdens of the food system are equitably distributed, in line with the SDGs.
The TEEB AgriFood Report launch took place on 4 June 2018 in Delhi, India. TEEB AgriFood released an updated version on 26 June. [TEEB AgriFood Report Website] [Publication: TEEB for Agriculture and Food: Scientific and Economic Foundations Report] [TEEBAgriFood Website]