Sustainable Food Consumption: CORPUS - Enhancing the Connectivity between Research and Policy-making in Sustainable Consumption

Lucia Reisch, Gerd Scholl, Ulrike Eberle

    Research output: Working paperResearch


    Not only can food consumption today not be regarded as sustainable, but the scope of the problem
    is wide:
    1. about 800 million people worldwide are suffering hunger
    2. 1 to 1.5 billion people in the world are overweight, 300 to 500 million of them obese, a tendency that is increasing
    3. diet and lifestyle related health problems such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are increasing, the latter in young age groups
    4. social cohesion is increasingly in danger since health is closely related to socioeconomic status
    5. serious environmental problems related to food production and consumption need to be tackled, including climate change water pollution and water scarcity, soil degradation,eutrophication of water bodies, and loss of habitats and biodiversity.
    With respect to a growing world population and demographic change, problems are predicted to become more serious in the future; for example, agricultural production must face the impacts of climate change, land use conflicts are predicted to increase, and health and social costs – both on an individual and a social level –will rise because of foodborne ill health problems. The reasons for this unsustainable development include the industrialisation and globalisation of agriculture and food processing, consumption patterns that are shifting towards more dietary animal protein, modern food styles, an abundance of food on the one hand and a lack of food security on the other, and the continuously growing gap between rich and poor on both a worldwide scale and within individual societies. These drivers are the result of national and international policies and regulations, as well as business practices, and in particular values. At present, however, there is no commonly accepted definition for ‘sustainable food production’: rather, existing definitions primarily address issues of ill health. As a result, current strategies focus on single issues independently (e.g. childhood obesity) – but there is a need for overarching policy review which tackles the full range of drivers of unsustainable food production and consumption. Developing such integrative strategies and identifying the most sustainable way to ensure the nutrition of the world’s current and future populations, however, requires further research. More research is also needed on ways to achieve sustainable food consumption patterns. According to the extant literature, the most effective ways for affluent societies to reduce the environmental impact of their diets are to reduce the amount of meat and dairy consumed, especially beef; buy organic food products and avoid product transportation by airplane. Over and above these concerns, politics must develop cross-sectoral population-wide policies on a variety of issues, including agriculture and the food supply, the availability of and access to food, physical activity, welfare and social benefits, sound environmental production and consumption, fiscal policies, the role of individual consumer decision-making, public procurement and public provision of food. Based on these policies, governments must develop action plans on sustainable food consumption.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationBruxelles
    PublisherEuropean Commission
    Number of pages29
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011

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