Research-based
policy recommendations
for the G7

Food and Agriculture

Abstract

This policy brief calls for a non-atomistic ecological approach. Among the G7 priorities, food and agriculture should be mentioned since they illustrate a non-atomistic approach of ecology, combining its four pillars: the environmental dimension (mitigating climate change and the erosion of biodiversity), social justice, health, and animal welfare. Food systems constitute 21% to 37% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Citizens’ choices can make a big difference to climate change by reducing their consumption of meat, fish and dairy products. Simultaneously, the World Health Organization insists upon the necessity to create a healthy food environment that enables people to adopt and maintain healthy dietary practices and that reduces public health burdens of diseases and obesity linked to an excessive consumption of meat and foods containing high levels of saturated fats.

Therefore, it is necessary to generate support for change by helping farmers and ranchers to move from an intensive model generating pollution and disease to a more extensive model. Under current conditions, the problems cannot be changed from within the involved sectors. A predominant atomistic approach and the instruments in place in the policy fields of agriculture and food, in combination with a market-based production model that ignores the environmental, ethical and social consequences of such a model, are impeding the transformation efforts of single actors and creating wrong incentives to the detriment of all, humans and non-humans. The G7 and their partners should implement proactive public policies, both at the national and the European level, allowing for the transition to an ecosystemic agriculture, programming the end of intensive livestock farming and vegetarianizing diets and food supply at large. This applies to different sectors of public life, starting with public catering and education.

First, financial aid is needed to implement the logistical changes and to compensate and incentivize farmers who move from an intensive to an extensive agricultural model. An ecological transition income is proposed as an effective instrument to achieve these requirements. Moreover, a complementary income for farmers whose mission is not only to produce quality food, but also to maintain landscape and ecosystem services, is presented. The G7 should consider the implementation of these structural financial instruments.

Second, food prices need to reflect the negative externalities, such as the carbon footprint stemming from energy consumption, methane emissions and transportation. In order to achieve policy coherence, it is crucial to envision a re-discussion of the terms of trade treaties and economic partnership agreements that do not sufficiently take into account environmental standards and animal welfare. The G7 and the EU should build alliances and push for global trade rules promoting policy coherence with sustainable food systems and climate policy. In addition to that, an overall paradigm shift is needed in the treatment of living beings, not seeing them as mere commodities, subordinating them to norms of efficiency and competition.

Third, it proposes the vegetarianization of food supplies, starting with public catering, and the creation of linked educational programs for different age groups to encourage a healthy diet. The proposed food education programs will effectively support the individual and collective efforts to reduce the consumption of animal products, to reduce our carbon and ecological footprint, to support local production of quality food, and to rediscover the meaning of the daily act of eating. The latter is not reduced to a food intake. Its emotional, ethical and economic dimension deserves to be placed at the heart of any food policy.

A non-atomistic approach to agriculture and food places agriculture and food at the core of a political project whose axis is ecology, thought as an opportunity to promote a more just and sustainable development model. In addition to the mentioned goals in terms of environment, health and animal welfare, such an approach will strengthen social cohesion and justice. Starting with the implementation of the three proposed measures, citizens will gain confidence in themselves and in institutions, being involved in the cooperative project of the urgently needed ecological transition, that can relaunch a civilizing process to the benefit of all.