BCFN calls for sustainable agriculture

Barilla centre proposes adoption of 'double pyramid'

(ANSA) - Rome, May 9 - The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) outlined agriculture's many contributions to the environmental problems the world faces and presented its proposals for a system that is sustainable for humankind and the planet at the World Food Research and Innovation Forum. The BCFN Foundation, an independent food think tank created by Barilla, pointed out that tropical deforestation linked to the expansion of farmland produced the equivalent of 3.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year. It said that agriculture is having an unprecedented impact in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions, with the equivalent of around 6.2 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions, to maintain its position as the top greenhouse gas-emitter ahead of the energy and transport sectors. Agriculture is also top when it comes to how land is used - almost 40% of global land surface area is taken up by agricultural and livestock activities and 70% of global freshwater is used to irrigate crops, leading to a big loss in biodiversity. "We have to reconnect primary agricultural production to the food system," said Riccardo Valentini, a member of the BCFN Foundation's advisory board and professor of forest ecology at Italy's Tuscia University (Università della Tuscia).
    "It's necessary to return to the real value of food, which cannot only be represented by market value, but must also include the costs and benefits of environmental externalities. "For example, the value of sustainable production that does not have an impact on the planet's resources and the nutritional value of the food must be remunerated all along the supply chain". Indeed, the BCFN highlights that our greatest impact on the environment stems from what we eat and put on our plates every day. If one only considers greenhouse-gas emissions, food makes the biggest contribution to climate change, accounting for 31% of the total, more than heating (23.6%) and transport (18.5%).
    Meat consumption is especially significant as it is responsible for 12% of total emissions, while milk-dairy products contribute 5%. Limiting the consumption of animal protein to twice a week (rather than daily consumption) and making more room for cereals and legumes could save up to 2,300 grams of CO2 a day. That would be a 750 kilo annual reduction in CO2 emissions per person, the equivalent of a 5,600km journey in a medium-sized car, or a trip from Milan to Moscow and back. Furthermore, greenhouse-gas emissions from farming have increased by 20% since 1990 and they have doubled since 1960. Therefore, our food choices have a fundamental role in safeguarding our planet, the BCFN says. Therefore, the adoption of the BCFN's double food and environment pyramid - a model promoting the Mediterranean diet, demonstrating its benefits for the health of mankind and the environment - should be one of the first steps in the path towards safeguarding the planet and human health. But the issue of food and diet cannot be separated from that of sustainability. With this in mind, the first problem to address is that of protecting soil. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 25% of the world's soil is seriously damaged and only 10% shows some sign of improvement. In the last 40 years alone, 30% of farmland has become infertile. Yet simple solutions like increasing the variety of crops, instead of concentrating solely on soy and maize, would contribute to restoring nutrients in the soil and help farmers for big and small companies to obtain higher yields per hectare, the BCFN says. It should be considered that in less than 10 years' time, by 2025, three million people will not have drinking water while today, 70% of fresh water is destined for agricultural and food production. The latter of those accounts for 23% of total greenhouse gas emissions.
    The BCFN says, therefore, that it is fundamentally important to grow the most sustainable forms of agriculture that are capable of effectively combining production volumes, product quality and environmental, economic and social sustainability, improving the efficiency of the use and conservation of natural resources.
    It is also necessary to propose a model of agriculture that safeguards and improves fairness and the quality of social wellbeing in rural areas and implement responsible, effective policies for the sustainability of the agro-food system, the BCFN says.