Oxfam digs deep into the global food system

Oxfam has just launched a new campaign called “GROW“. The report is quite good and calls for some major changes in how our ‘broken’ global food system could be repaired. They propose some solutions and criticisms about land grabbing, GMOs, organic farming, and the role of industry. Supporting smallholder farmers is highlighted as one area where a difference can be made in feeding the planet, sustainably. Oxfam says: “Everything connects: food and oil prices… flatlining yields… climate change… gender inequality… land grabs. These issues combine to create a system that’s dominated by a few powerful companies and governments — and which is failing the rest of us.” Oxfam also states that the planet needs to grow back its natural resources, for example forests, atmospheric space, fish, fertile soil, animal life and biodiversity. I couldn’t agree more! But I wonder if it is too late…god I’m such a pessimist!

One figure in the report shows how much energy it takes to produce food. It is obvious that eating beef is not sustainable way of getting adequate nutrients in our diet as it takes so much in the way of resources to produce 1 kg of beef for consumption (as the most energy intensive). The amount of water and grain that goes into the production of beef, as well as the CO2 emitted, demonstrates the massive footprint every time we gulp down a juicy burger from Mickey Ds. And we know that those in the poorest countries rarely get access to animal sourced proteins and products – what a luxury! Not so fair is it…Maybe we can eat a little less beef, pork and chicken and ensure those who do need those nutrients are able to get access to them. And why do CAFOs exist? We demand so much meat in our diet. And it really isn’t necessary to eat so much of it, not from a health perspective, nutrition perspective, environment perspective and not from the cow’s perspective.

The campaign and report also focus on who the most influential players are that control the global food system. From the figure below, there are just a handful of companies controlling the way our food is grown, distributed and consumed. Scary. These companies on the other hand, could play a major role in making our global food system more equitable, sustainable and environmentally amiable – can our footprint tread a little more lightly on our planet please? Ignoring biodiversity and natural resource depletion is not only a devastating blow for our global community as far as food and nutrition security is concerned, but it is just bad for business.

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