Our global food system is destroying the very environment on which future food production relies. It is the leading cause of deforestation, land use change and loss of biodiversity. It contributes almost a quarter of human produced greenhouse gas emissions, is accountable for two thirds of the water used by humans, and is a significant cause of water pollution. By far the biggest culprit in all of this is livestock production for meat and animal products.
As the world population grows, there is going to be an increased demand on our already stretched food system and fragile environment, in particular to meet a growing demand for meat and other animal products. If we don’t make changes to our food system and consumption patterns now, it is forecast that by 2050 we will need to produce 60-70% more grain crops – predominantly to feed livestock. We are already seeing the impacts of climatic and environmental change on food production, and this will only worsen as average temperatures increase, extreme weather conditions become more frequent, and natural resources are further depleted.
The current global distribution of food is already unequal (795 million people worldwide do not have access to sufficient food, whilst 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese), and this is projected to become even worse if we continue with “business as usual”. There are obvious health and ethical implications to all of this. Our challenge is to ensure a food system and a food future that is more secure, sustainable, just and healthy.
Medact aims to promote healthy, sustainable and ethical food systems, with a particular focus on the need to reduce unhealthy and unsustainable levels of meat and dairy consumption. We are working on four interconnected projects in this area:
Medact’s work in this area is generously supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
If you want to get involved with campaigning for healthier and more sustainable food in your hospital, or in your community in general, you are not alone.
Making hospital food healthier and more sustainable: a toolkit for bringing about change
Unravelling hospital food policy and practices, and finding the way towards healthier, tastier and more sustainable hospital food
Happy NHS Sustainability Day! A national day of action across the health sector to highlight the important role of sustainability in health service delivery. Hospital environments that promote food which is both healthy and sustainable are absolutely key to the...
Anne Gulland reviews our new policy briefing, A Healthy and Sustainable Food Future, for BMJ News
Professor Corinna Hawkes provides a broad global perspective on the central challenges for food systems, as an opening to the Food stream of the conference.
From Session A1 – “Global Food System Challenges”