Environment & Governance

Food and the Environment

The food system affects and is affected by the environment. The ecosystem services on which food production depends are being degraded at rates that imperil future supplies. The consequences of climate change will be increasingly felt and while not all negative, the effects of the higher frequency of extreme events as well as the time lags in adapting to a changing environment will impact the food system.

Food and Governance

The political economics of the food system will also evolve, though in ways much harder to predict. The Doha trade round is stalled but has already been overtaken by events – in the agricultural sphere it is predicated on a world of excess rich-country supply rather than strong demand, and in all areas it does not reflect the economic advances of the “BRIC” and other mid-income countries. Though avowedly “pro-poor” it says little about the environment.

There is increasing debate about the extent to which the international organisations charged with food system governance are fit for purpose. The private sector has seen major global consolidation in all sectors, though with the entry in recent years of new international players from the emerging economies. In the immediate wake of the largest global economic crisis since the Great Depression it is particularly difficult to predict the course of globalisation and how it will affect the food system over the next few decades.

Next: What can be done to tackle these problems?