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Did You Know Food Production is the Biggest Threat to Nature Today?

The food and beverage industries behind the global food system are directly implicated in the climate crisis
25th May 2022
“Most of us might believe it’s our energy or transport choices that cause the most serious environmental damage. In fact, it’s our food system that creates the biggest impact."
– Dr. Tony Juniper, CBE, former Executive Director for Advocacy, WWF-UK 

With much of the current dialogue around climate change focused on contributors like transport and the use of fossil fuels, you may be shocked to learn that global food production is actually the single biggest threat to our environment today. One-third of all land is already used to farm crops and livestock — and yet, on an ongoing basis, food production continues to be the main cause of deforestation and other habitat loss. 

The UN predicts that the global population will increase from 7.7 billion in 2019 to 10.9 billion by the end of the century. The increased demand for food created by this population growth means a continued stripping away of our environment, destabilising many of the natural systems we rely upon — not to mention the planet’s other animal, plant and fungi inhabitants. 

The warning signs are impossible to miss. With temperatures increasing as a result of climate change, communities around the globe are left vulnerable to erratic and extreme weather, rising sea levels and floods, fires, droughts, collapsed fish stocks, resource scarcity, eroded soils and severe declines in populations of bees and other pollinating insects. In 2020, multiple cities around the world experienced extreme temperatures, including a record high of 42.7°C in Madrid and a 72-year low of -19°C in Dallas. Respondents to the Global Risk Perception Survey ranked ‘climate action failure’ as the number one long-term threat to the world, and the risk with potentially the most drastic impacts over the next decade. In fact, five of the top 10 issues ranked as ‘the most severe risks on a global scale over the next 10 years’ concerned climate change and its impacts; the other four included were extreme weather, biodiversity loss, human environmental damage and natural resource crises. 

The food and beverage industries behind the global food system are directly implicated in this worsening state of affairs, contributing to 60% of biodiversity loss, 60% of land conversion, 70% of nutrient overloading and 30% of climate change. The food system also contributes to more than 50% of the eutrophication of water, a process whereby lakes and rivers receive excess nutrients and begin to collapse. 

One of our biggest challenges now lies in reforming the global food system to address the climate crisis, while simultaneously achieving the 2030 goal of Zero Hunger — ensuring that nobody goes hungry, wherever they are in the world. While this may seem like a balancing act, it’s also true that the climate crisis itself is one of the causes of increased hunger around the world. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), the causes of increased hunger include ‘climate shocks’ such as environmental degradation and drought. 

The good news 


Fortunately, not all is lost. Around the world, innovation and technology are being used to improve a wide range of food production challenges. This comprehensive study discusses four classes of technological innovations that can help to decarbonise the food industry. These are:
  • Food supply and agriculture (technologies include those focusing on better land use management, manure management, nitrogen efficiency, precision agriculture, decentralised food chains and distributed food manufacturing).
  • Food and beverage manufacturing (automation and process optimisation, thermal management and heat recovery, adoption of renewable energies, energy efficiency, sustainable packaging).
  • Food retail and distribution (energy efficiency, sustainable sourcing, supply chain management, minimising food waste).
  • Food consumption and end use (alternatives to meat and cellular agriculture, less carbon intensive diets, food sharing). 

There is also a fifth category included, consisting of 78 emerging, potentially transformative technologies that cut across the four classes. Examples include groundbreaking concepts such as nanotechnology, edible food packaging and robotic chefs.

Sustainability, made simple 


At Nutritics, we're on a mission to help everyone better understand and reduce the impact of our food supply. Our in-house sustainability team is made up of experienced environmental researchers, with a mix of PhD education and foodservice expertise. 

We’ve brought our best-in-class food data expertise to carbon labelling, to develop a proprietary technology that automatically matches your foods, recipes and dishes to peer reviewed LCA data sources, with a specific focus on the local food supply chains. 

Foodprint is a fully automated, easy-to-use carbon footprint scoring, display and Scope 3 reporting system for food businesses. It combines the latest research with cutting-edge technology, all designed to help organisations on their journey to ‘net zero' carbon. 

Not only will this latest technological innovation offer real benefits to your business, but our menu management and labelling software will also provide you with ways to communicate your carbon score directly to your customers. 

Read more about Foodprint and how it can directly benefit your business here, and join our free webinar on June 22nd for more information.