4.7 What combination of solutions is probably needed?

  • Should we focus on producing more food, and how?
  • Or on consuming more sustainably, and how?
  • Or should we address inequity and improve access to food for poorer groups, and how?

Evidence suggests it is too simplistic – and the problem is too urgent – to rely on one approach alone. A composite approach that encompasses elements of production, consumption and systemic approaches is probably needed. Significant knowledge gaps and trade-offs exist.

How we solve these challenges has been, and still is, the subject of much debate. Some argue that we need to invest in greater technological solutions to produce more on existing land; others argue that we already produce enough but we need to reduce demand for resource intensive food and reduce food waste; others argue that the root causes of sustainable food systems are power, distribution and access.

The evidence suggests that all three approaches generate a mix of risks and benefits, and in practice all three approaches will likely need to be implemented if the necessary deep cuts in emissions are to be achieved. How we do this is, as shown throughout this chapter, the subject of further debate. One factor missing from these different perspectives is whether the population increases that form the basis for much of the projected rise in demand for food, are indeed inevitable.

Chapter 7 looks in more detail at trends in food consumption over time, and how these are connected to nutrition and health.