The following key challenges are defined:
Read more about the different challenges below:
Working within planetary boundaries
A sustainable food system should remain within planetary boundaries in all of the key biophysical impact areas across the entire life cycle of food production, consumption, and disposal. Though we should continuously strive for full net zero impact within the food system, some areas, such as preservation of biodiversity, should be prioritized over others. In general, severe and irreversible impacts to complex ecological and cultural systems, and the depletion of non-renewable natural resources caused by the food system, should be addressed with the highest urgency.
Building an adaptive & resilient food system
An adaptive and resilient food system is one that will be able to respond to changing circumstances and new challenges as they emerge. This is one of the most important systemic criteria for a sustainable food system, since we cannot predict all of the conditions or changes that will emerge in the future. Adaptive capacity and resilience must be built into both biophysical aspects of the system (through the preservation of biodiversity, maintenance of healthy soil systems, maintenance of buffering capacity in water bodies, etc.) and socioeconomic aspects of the system (knowledge transfer, development or organizational capacity, elimination of poverty cycles, etc.).
Prosperity and well-being for everyone in the food chain
The food system should structurally support the livelihoods and well-being of people working within it. It should be possible to fully nourish and support oneself and earn a reasonable living wage in exchange for average work hours within the food system. Ensuring that the food system supports livelihoods and wellbeing is more than an end in itself; it is also essential for addressing the other three challenges. Without secure livelihoods, smallholder farmers and fishermen will continue to struggle in building the necessary capacity and resource base to transition to sustainable models of production. A resilient system cannot be built upon an unstable foundation. Therefore, addressing the systemic structures that perpetuate poverty is critical to the success of achieving a sustainable and resilient food system.
Access to nutritious food for all
The most basic and fundamental challenge that the food system must address is to ensure the supply of adequate nutrition for the world’s population, especially for those below the poverty line. Ideally, it should achieve the objective set out by the World Food Summit in Rome, which states that food security is addressed when, “all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Some of the priority objectives for addressing this challenge should, at minimum, include:
- reducing overall food demand (e.g., through reducing food waste);
- progressively shifting to lower-impact, less-resource- intensive food sources;
- ensuring that scarce resources (land, water) are allocated to food production as a priority over non-food uses;
- improving economic access to food;
- and improving farmer productivity in the developing world.