With your support, WWF-Australia is working on a number of priority foods to conserve nature, minimise waste and ensure our food system is resilient to environmental change.
What's cooking in your kitchen tonight and what did it take to produce those ingredients? While you probably know how much they cost in dollar terms, have you considered the environmental cost of the food you eat?
Around the globe, food production, distribution, consumption and waste threaten wildlife, water resources and climate stability. The world's 7.6 billion people currently consume more than 1.7 times what the Earth can supply sustainably and we will need to produce 70% more food to feed an estimated 9.8 billion people by 2050. So how do we curb our impacts on the planet while feeding more people? How do we stop eating ourselves out of house and home? We're lifting the lid on how food is produced, traded and consumed. And we're championing "planet-friendly" alternatives that are good for nature and good for people – sustainable food that’s healthy, tasty and certified sustainable, or demonstrably on a pathway to sustainability. By working with food producers, companies, governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the Australian public, WWF is demonstrating how sustainable food production and consumption can be to the planet that sustains us. Food for thought indeed.
Priority FoodsWith your support, WWF-Australia is working on a number of priority foods to conserve nature, minimise waste and ensure our food system is resilient to environmental change.
Why it mattersWhile food is fundamental to our lives, food production and waste is a leading cause of environmental harm. This is why finding solutions that promote sustainable food production are so important.
Greenhouse gas emissions
About 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, forestry and other land issues. Some 56% of non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, such as methane, come from agriculture (mostly from enteric fermentation in cattle).
Water use and scarcity
Around 70% of all fresh water extracted is used for food production. This is more than the water used for all other human needs, such as sanitation, recreation and industrial processes. In many cases, too little water is left for nature, resulting in rivers and lake drying out, and the loss of aquatic biodiversity.
The natural systems that provide us with food, drinking water, crop pollination and climate refulation (known as ecosystem services) rely on biodiversity for their vitality. Destroying complex ecosystems reduces resilience to climate change, pests and disease.
Threatened species habitat loss
The increasing production of foods like beef, soy, and palm oil has contributed to forest losses around the world, including Australia. Broadscale landclearing in Queensland, for example, has destroyed many hundreds of thousands of hectares of habitat for the koala and other native species. Abroad, the expansion of palm oil plantation between 1900 and 2010 resulted in the loss of about 3.5 million hectares of forest in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papa New Guinea.
Poverty and food security
Over two billion people reply directly on food production to earn a living. Many of these producers are relatively poor, which makes them especially vulnerable to economic or environment shocks. More equitable wages, trade and financing terms for farmers and agricultural workers can help them to escape poverty and build prosperous and rewarding lives.
What we're doing
Produce more with less
To feed the world sustainably we need to produce more food with fewer resources. That’s why WWF-Australia works with partners to improve the production of everyday foods with the largest environmental impact. These include beef, palm oil and seafood. Our goal is to help producers identify and adopt practices that are both more sustainable and more profitable.
Knowing where and how food is produced gives businesses and consumers the information they need to make sustainable choices. Tracing products along supply chains provides assurances that environmental credentials are credible. WWF works hard to encourage the development and promotion of independent, scientifically credible standards, certification and traceability systems for everyday foods. In Australia, responsibly grown sugar cane is certified by Bonsucro, while products containing sustainable palm oil are certified under the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, wild-caught seafood is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, and farmed seafood by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council.
Choosing certified sustainable food when shopping or dining out is a simple way to support planet-friendly food production and sourcing. Shopping responsibly sends retailers a strong message that the way the food is produced is just as important as its quality and cost. Ideally, we’d like to get to the point where all food is guaranteed to be sustainable. In the meantime, there are many ways you can choose planet-friendly food.
Reducing food waste
The amount of food wasted each year around the world is sufficient to feed three billion people. All that water, energy and care is simply trashed. In Australia, more than half of all food waste occurs at the point of consumption, including plate waste in restaurants and food rotting in our fridges. We're working with businesses, governments and consumers to help everyone reduce food waste, especially at the point of consumption.
Governing and financing food
The sustainability of food production depends on many factors. Soils and climate are obviously important, alongside technology and market forces, such as certifications. But the sustainability of our food system also depends on land- and water-use plans and regulations enforced by governments, infrastructure design, and sound lending and investment decisions by banks and asset managers. WWF-Australia believes that the natural resources and financial capital allocated to food production must be managed more transparently, with full consideration of social, environmental and economic impacts.