Leaders, experts, and stakeholders from all over the world got together last week for the UN Food Systems Summit. Witnessing so many committed people coming together to address the flaws in our current food systems gave me cause for optimism. It meant the vast majority of the world governments acknowledge that we must work together to tackle one of the most significant threats humanity has ever faced: reliably feeding people, writes Sudhanshu Sarronwala.
And the threat is clear and imminent. According to the analysis of the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, "humanity must produce more food in the next four decades than we have in the last 8,000 years of agriculture combined". Let this sink in for a minute while I add that since those words were written in 2012, not a lot has changed.
Considering current farming methods and the resources these methods require from nature, meeting the scientists' prediction, unfortunately, means that we need an additional planet Earth to feed the seven billion people expected to be living in cities by 2050. Given the odds of finding and colonizing another planet as generous as Earth in the next 30 years, we need to ask ourselves how we can produce enough food within planetary boundaries. How do we do that in a way that doesn't put an additional burden on our already fragile, degraded, and beaten up ecosystem?
Although the respected delegates of the UNFSS discussed crucial issues like biodiversity loss and the need for more inclusive food systems, not enough focus was given to the most critical element, and possibly a genuine solution to the sustainability equation. I am talking, of course, about technology.
Here is where my optimism sadly waned: the UN has the mandate to fix broken systems. To produce more food in the next 30-40 years than we've produced in the last 8,000, we need more than that. Although trying to fix the broken food systems is noble and arguably necessary, perhaps the solution should be focusing on innovating, reinventing, and revolutionizing.