Summary of findings
By making great strides in productivity, the industrial food system has managed largely to meet the demands of a growing global population. However, this approach to food production, and the management of food by-products, is endangering biodiversity and human health. It has become clear that this food system is no longer fit for the 21st century and that a new model is required.
Launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2019 in Davos, Cities and Circular Economy for Food explores the benefits of the transition to a regenerative food system. With analytical support from SYSTEMIQ, the research outlines a vision underpinned by circular economy principles, where food production improves rather than degrades the environment and where people have access to healthy and nutritious food. Given that 80% of all food will be consumed in cities by 2050, the report highlights their critical importance in triggering the shift towards a regenerative system fit for the long term. Three main ambitions emerge: source food grown regeneratively, and locally where appropriate; make the most of food (use by-products more effectively, prevent waste); design and market healthier food.
These three ambitions will have greater impact if pursued simultaneously and by 2050 could unlock overall benefits worth USD 2.7 trillion a year. These take the form of environmental improvements including a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 4.3 billion tonnes CO2 equivalents, a reduction in health costs associated with pesticide use of USD 550 billion, along with other health benefits, and an economic opportunity for cities to reduce edible food waste and make better use of food by-products, worth USD 700 billion. Realising this vision will require an unprecedented level of collaboration across the entire value-chain and the connection of flagship city demonstration projects with the scaling potential of global businesses and collaboration platforms. The report sets out a pathway to a much-needed new approach to our food system.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation works in Education & Training, Business & Government, Insight & Analysis, Systemic Initiatives and Communications to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.
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