3 February 2021. Benton, et al (2021) Food System Impacts on Biodiversity LossThree Levers for Food System Transformation in Support of Nature. Chatham House Research Paper 75 pages
This paper explores the role of the global food system as the principal driver of accelerating biodiversity loss. It explains how food production is degrading or destroying natural habitats and contributing to species extinction. The paper outlines the challenges and trade-offs involved in redesigning food systems to restore biodiversity and/or prevent further biodiversity loss, and presents recommendations for action.
The paper introduces three ‘levers’ for reducing pressures on land and creating a more sustainable food system. The first is to change dietary patterns to reduce food demand and encourage more plant-based diets. The second is to protect and set aside land for nature, whether through re-establishing native ecosystems on spared farmland or integrating pockets of natural habitat into farmland. The third is to shift to more sustainable farming. All three levers will be needed for food system redesign to succeed.
- Firstly, global dietary patterns need to converge around diets based more on plants, owing to the disproportionate impact of animal farming on biodiversity, land use and the environment. Such a shift would also benefit the dietary health of populations around the world, and help reduce the risk of pandemics. Global food waste must be reduced significantly. Together, these measures would reduce pressure on resources including land, through reducing demand.
- Secondly, more land needs to be protected and set aside for nature. The protection of land from conversion or exploitation is the most effective way of preserving biodiversity, so we need to avoid converting land for agriculture. Restoring native ecosystems on spared agricultural land offers the opportunity to increase biodiversity.
- Thirdly, we need to farm in a more nature-friendly, biodiversity-supporting way, limiting the use of inputs and replacing monoculture with polyculture farming practices.