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10 Mar

Why are sustainable food systems important?

The FAO defines sustainable food systems as: “A sustainable food system (SFS) is a food system that delivers food security and nutrition for all in such a way that the economic, social and environmental bases to generate food security and nutrition for future generations are not compromised. This means that:

  • It is profitable throughout (economic sustainability);
  • It has broad-based benefits for society (social sustainability); and
  • It has a positive or neutral impact on the natural environment (environmental sustainability).”

Consuming organic food and minimizing food waste are not the only means in order to achieve food sustainability. Indeed, it is not only about the food itself, but it concerns the whole supply chain: production, distribution, packaging, consumption, waste management…

Fuente: Foto de Daria Shevtsova

Factors at play for a sustainable food system

  • Food kilometers: it refers to how far the food has traveled between the production site and the consumer’s home. The shorter the distance, the better for the planet as CO2 gas emissions are reduced.
  • Environmental impacts: traditional mass food production has a huge impact on climate change. We must minimize as much as possible agriculture carbon footprint while managing better the Earth’s resources. In order to preserve the environment, the use of hazardous chemical fertilizers and pesticides must be limited, and producers should opt for more natural alternatives. Moreover, one of the goals of sustainable agriculture is to limit monoculture, the practice of planting large fields with only a single type of crop. This practice is harmful since growing the same plant in the same spot year after year depletes the soil of nutrients and leaves it more vulnerable to erosion. It also negatively affects the ecosystem biodiversity by limiting the access to varied food and nutrients to the species living there. 
  • Resource usages: traditional food systems are based on the extensive use of fossil-fuel energies, which is highly harmful to the planet and are also limited. In order to prevent energy shortage, food producers and farmers must adopt renewable energy sources that are not as detrimental to the planet: solar, wind, waste cooking oil…Nevertheless, although sustainable food production favors renewable energies over non-renewable, we must optimize the use of those by reducing energy waste. That also applies to transportation and storage that negatively impacts the planet.
  • Health consequences: sustainable farming helps to promote a better health as farmers does not use fertilizers, pesticides or any other hazardous chemical agents in their fields. On the other hand, more and more consumers are concerned with their health and are adopting a 100% plant-based diet. As a result, the demand of chemicals-free food has increased, and food producers need to adjust their ways of production to meet the demand and stay profitable. That shift in consumers’ habits also alleviates the pressure of animal agriculture on the planet: we need to use less resources to crop plants and vegetables than to feed livestock. For instance, it takes about 15,415 liters of water to produce one kilogram of bovine meat against 322 liters for vegetables (Source: Water Footprint Network). 
  • Social and economic consequences: not only the environment and the planet are key areas in sustainable food systems but so are the economic and social dimensions. Contrary to popular belief, sustainable food systems can and should be profitable: it should provide jobs for the people and fair wages to the workers, generate profits for companies and taxes for the governments and respond to the consumer’s demand. On the social dimension, sustainable food practices guarantee the equal distribution of wealth, the inclusion of minorities and low-income groups, ensures safe and good working conditions to the workers, and take into account animal welfare (Source: the FAO). Finally, animal welfare has become an increasing concern for society. Sustainable farmers use livestock husbandry techniques that protect animals’ health and wellbeing. They provide pasture grazing and allow animals to move freely instead of cages or restricted holding pens.

How to enhance sustainable food systems?

  • Buy seasonal and organic food from your local markets and producers is one the easiest and best way to increase your efforts towards achieving food sustainability as a consumer.
  • Reduce your consumption of meat as the cattle industry requires way more water and natural resources than plant production. 
  • Support brands that are truly sustainable and environmental-friendly. Be careful and watch out for greenwashing methods where brands are just surfing on this trend to generate more profit.
  • Reduce food and buy according to your needs. Waste management implies great use of energy and natural resources. Try to compost and recycle as much as you can.
  • Governments must promote sustainable food production and food systems with regulations to enforce sustainable practices and economic aids to help companies transitioning towards greener methods. 
  • Increase national and global budgets for innovative R&D projects that create more sustainable food production ways and facilitate local knowledge-building and knowledge-sharing

What does Isanatur do to be a sustainable stakeholder in the food system?

At Isanatur, our vision is to lead niche markets within the food ingredients design, production and commercialization. In recent years, consumers have been managing their own health by choosing healthier food solutions and lifestyles. As a result, Isanatur joined the functional food research field and focused its work around the following pillars:

  • Sustainability and “biomass biorefinery” approach
  • Revalorization of by-products from the agro-food industry
  • “Naturalness” and exploitation of natural ingredients
  • Low-price ingredients with added health value
  • “Up-cycling” and environmentally friendly manufacturing and logistics processes
  • Involvement in society and health
  • Respect for all stakeholders’ interests
  • Respect for gender and human rights

Therefore, upcycling food allows us to reduce food waste and better manage waste and resources by creating new healthy and planet-friendly by-products that boost consumers’ health. You can learn more about our projects here.

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