Who will feed us? Agribusiness or the peasant food web

A report by the ETC group tells the shocking story of two food systems. We are told that it is big business, with its flashy technological solutions and financial clout, that will save the world from widespread hunger and malnutrition and help food systems cope with the impacts of climate change.

However, a new report from ETC Group shows that it is actually a diverse network of small-scale farmers, called Red Alimentaria Campesina, that feeds 70% of the world, including the world’s hungriest and most marginalized. .

Drawing on a wide variety of sources, the report concludes that it is Red Alimentaria Campesina that has the diversity, resilience and light footprint needed to successfully adapt to climate change. Global agribusiness, on the other hand, is one of the main sources of carbon emissions and is vulnerable due to its genetic uniformity.

The report Who will feed us?, is a data-driven report with unexpected statistics that reveal the story of two food systems. This is the third edition, and the most complete synthesis, of a research exercise that we have been carrying out for several years. Who will feed us? it is shaking up conventional wisdom about who is feeding whom in a world that is starving and threatened by climate change.

Some highlights of the report:

  • Peasants (not food corporations) feed the world: 70% of the world’s population feeds on the peasant food web, and peasants produce that food with less (often much less) than 25% of the resources – including land, water, fossil fuels – used to put all the food in the world on the table.
  • Industrial food production fails to feed itself: only 24% of the food produced by the industrial food chain actually reaches people: the rest is wasted in the inefficiencies of meat production; is lost in transport, storage and at home; and is diverted to non-food items.
  • The agro-industrial food chain uses at least 75% of the world’s agricultural resources and is one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions, but provides food for less than 30% of the world’s population. For every $1 that consumers pay to chain retailers, society pays an additional $2 for health and environmental damage caused by the chain. The total direct and indirect cost bill of the channel is 5 times the annual government military expenditure. Conclusion: Processed foods cost us more: For every dollar spent on processed foods, it costs $2 more to clean up the mess.
  • The chain lacks the agility to respond to climate change. Its R&D is not only skewed, but in decline as it concentrates the global food market.
  • The Rural Food Network values ​​between 9 and 100 times the biodiversity used by the agro-industrial sector, between plants, livestock, fish and forests. Farmers have the knowledge, innovative energy and networks to respond to climate change; they have operational scope and scale; and they are closer to the hungry and malnourished.
  • There’s still a lot about our food systems that we don’t know that we don’t know. Sometimes, the agri-food sector knows it but does not say it. Other times, policy makers aren’t watching. Most of the time, we do not take into account the different knowledge systems of the Farmer Food Chain.
  • In summary: At least 3.9 billion people are going hungry or malnourished because the industrial food chain is too distorted, too expensive and, after 70 years of trying, cannot be scaled up to feed the world.

With the right policies, land and rights, farmer-led agroecological strategies could double or even triple rural employment, dramatically reduce the pressure of urban migration, dramatically improve nutritional quality and availability, and end hunger, while GHG emissions from agriculture are reduced by more than 90%.

agriculture, agri-food, peasants, food sovereignty, food systems, territories, food


What happens to the food produced by the food industry?

The food chain produces immeasurable quantities of food. How come it feeds less than 30% of the world’s population? Part of the answer is that the channel harvests calories that don’t go directly to people.

Here is the sum:

  • 44% of the calories produced by the agri-food sector are lost in meat production (although half of the calories harvested by the sector are transformed into fodder for livestock, only 12% reach populations in the form of meat and dairy products) . •
  • An additional 9% of calories from industrial crops are used in the production of biofuels or non-food products.
  • At least 15% of the calories harvested by the agri-food sector are lost during transport, storage and processing.
  • About 8% of the channel’s calories end up in the trash.
  • So far, 76% of the total calories produced by the chain are wasted before reaching the plate, while only 24% are consumed directly by people.

Moreover, it is estimated that a quarter of the food consumed (by weight) is excessive consumption which causes disease. If we calculate that at least 2% of the calories coming from the agro-industrial chain are detrimental to health, it turns out that 78% of the production of the agro-industrial food chain is wasted and only 22% feed really people.

Who is draining our resources?

The peasant network uses less than 25% of agricultural land to grow food that feeds more than 70% of the population (also providing primary support to the 2 billion people most at risk). ETC calculates that the grid uses around 10% of fossil energy and no more than 20% of the water needed for any agricultural production, with virtually zero devastation to soils and forests.

The agribusiness chain uses over 75% of the world’s agricultural land and in the process destroys 75 billion tons of topsoil and cuts 7.5 million hectares of forest every year. In addition, the agro-industrial sector is responsible for the consumption of at least 90% of the fossil fuels used in agriculture (and their corresponding greenhouse gas emissions), as well as at least 80% of the fresh water, while leaving us with a $12.37 billion bill that we have to pay for both food and damage. Also, the agro-industrial sector has a balance sheet of 3.9 billion undernourished or malnourished people.



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