Countries are failing to prioritise sustainable agriculture

Just 28 countries are prioritising sustainable agriculture in their international climate commitments, according to the recently published Food Sustainability Index (FSI).

The FSI, which was published by Economist Impact and Barilla Foundation looks at the food-system sustainability of 78 countries according to three key pillars: 

  • food loss and waste
  • sustainable agriculture
  • nutritional challenges

The researchers found that despite food waste being a global issue, with 17% of all food available at a consumer level being wasted, just 28% of the countries in the entire FSI have a dedicated food waste strategy. 

Within the food loss and waste pillar, the top five performing countries include Canada, Italy, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands. 

Household food waste is also below the FSI average of 85kg per head per year in all but 2 of these 20 countries. 17 of the 20, however, can still make better use of food waste legislation, market-based instruments, and voluntary agreements in a complementary way.

green trees near gray wall

Around the world, the report highlights that there are still major gaps in the policy around sustainable agricultural systems. Less than 50% of all countries in the FSI are mainstreaming climate change into their agricultural policies and only 36% are prioritising agriculture in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Countries performing best in this pillar include Finland, Estonia, Austria, Tanzania, and Sweden.

Japan, Sweden, Denmark, France, and China are the top five performing countries for nutritional challenges. This pillar highlights the important differences between the nutritional challenges faced by high-income countries compared to middle-to-low income countries: in the former, overconsumption and overweight are key issues, while in the latter, undernourishment and mortality rates are high.

Martin Koehring, Senior Manager at Economist Impact, added: ‘The results of the 2021 Food Sustainability Index highlight that countries around the world still have a lot to do to tackle key food systems challenges.

‘Our research shows that efforts to tackle food sustainability sit alongside efforts to address key social and economic objectives such as human development, sustainable development, gender equality, health spending and support for innovation.

‘As the world continues to act on pressing climate targets, embrace a food systems agenda, all whilst we continue to overcome the effects of Covid-19, the Food Sustainability Index highlights best practices that world leaders can adopt towards more sustainable food systems.’


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