Food Industry

The food industry currently faces a multitude of challenges: a growing population needs to be fed, including a rising demand for resource intensive dairy foods and meat products, while impacts of climate change and nature degradation intensify production risks. Biodiversity and ecosystem services concepts offer an holistic and integrative approach to develop solutions to these challenges.

Risks

The food industry’s supply chain highly depends on regulating services like water supply, climate and pollination. Therefore, if such regulating services fail, the supply chain can be affected until the point of collapse. The magnitude may be illustrated by the following facts:

  • About 85 % of the global arable land is threatened by erosion, salinization, soil compaction, nutrient depletion or pollution
  • Cost of soil erosion in Europe alone amount to about 53 € per hectare and year
  • 70 % of the 124 most common used agricultural crops depend on insect pollination. "The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated, that of the 100 globally most used agricultural crops, delivering about 90 percent of nutrition, 71 are pollinated by bees. In Europe alonea bout 84 % of 264 agricultural crops are pollinated by animals and bee pollination single-handedly accounts for 4000 vegetables” (UNEP, 2010)

By species extinction the genetic pool and therefore the possibility of investigating specific genetic  features, e. g. heat or coldness adaption, is limited.  Since such qualities could be important for the development of cultivars or products, they are also called ‘values of an option’. Since there are about 6000 plant species, but today only about 30 agricultural plants are commonly used in food production, this potential may get esp. important facing climate and global change impacts.

A growing use of social media also contributes to rapidly spreading word, e. g. about the destruction of orang-utang habitats by palmoil plantations, informing recent and potential customers. Also in classic media the critical reporting is getting more frequent and unresolved issues are likely to lead to loss of reputation and image. Especially food industry businesses were spotlighted in the last years.

Chances

The chances of a more holistic agricultural production are diverse. Some examples are shown down below:

  • The opening of new markets or customers by organic production
  • Participating in the recently by more than 5 billion US$ per year growing global market of organic foods and beverages, including fish products growing by 50 % in 2008 to 2009
  • Avoidance or energy and substantial efficient reuse of food waste offers cost reduction as well as a rising business reputation, including direct soil protection:  the bisection of avoidable food loss in Germany could cut down acreage by 1.2 million hectare

 

 

Links

Global Platform on Business and Biodiversity, Sector: Agricultural Biodiversity

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO): Agroecology Knowledge Hub

The Comission to the European Parliament and the Council: Report on the implementation of the ecological focus area obligation under the green direct payment scheme

The Initiative "Biodiversity in Standards and Labels for the Food Sector" aims at increasing biodiversity within the agricultural production.

Learn more about the inititative