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Growing Health - Why Agriculture is Vital to the Health of People and the Planet
26 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2022More...
The development of agriculture and broader food systems capable of providing a sufficient and stable supply of foods is directly linked with the growth of human civilizations and the general improvement of global health. However, as countries have become richer, transitions in food systems have led to an explosion of nutrition-related chronic diseases. Notwithstanding major developments in practice, the expansion and intensification of agriculture has also had impacts on multiple environmental outcomes including greenhouse gas emissions, water availability and biodiversity. Using data on global food supply we explore the association of four dominant food system types that supply diverse patterns of foods at the national level with nutrition-related disease burdens and environmental footprints. Our analysis demonstrates that while many countries with modern agricultural systems (typically in high income countries) have food system types associated with high disease burdens and environmental footprints, alternative food system types exist and could be the blueprint for transitions to sustainable and healthy futures. However, the ability of agriculture to meet growing demands from population growth and dietary transitions in the face of future environmental changes, including rising global temperatures and reduced water availability, is a major unanswered question. Projected environmental changes will have significant impacts on agricultural productivity without substantial further investment in climateresilient agriculture, and current food trade is increasing global vulnerability to food insecurity. We analyse patterns of current global food trade and demonstrate an alarming reliance of global food supply on food production in climate vulnerable countries. We argue that better quantification of the links between the environment, food systems and health at a national level is required to ensure that agriculture can respond to future environmental change and retain its role as a major contributor to global health.
Funding: This study was supported by a Wellcome Trust (grant number: 210794/Z/18/Z), and forms part of the Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems (SHEFS) programme supported by the Wellcome Trust's Our Planet, Our Health programme [grant number: 205200/Z/16/Z].
Declaration of Interest: None to declare.
Keywords: food systems, Nutrition, planetary health, Global Health
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation