Food and Agriculture: The future of sustainability

From the Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA)

A unique report is now available online – unique because it is a hard-hitting consensus among very diverse and respected leaders.  Food and Agriculture: The future of sustainability was released by the U.N. Division for Sustainable Development as a major strategic input to its landmark “Sustainable Development in the 21st Century” Report.  


Our food systems are no longer sustainable. On our current trajectory, severe disruptions to national and regional food systems are highly probable – the question is when. This report focuses on vital areas of risk and offers a collection of up-to-date information on the current and likely trends for our global food and agriculture systems. It concludes that to handle growing food demand, it is clear that today’s “business as usual” is not a viable option. Investing in more of the same will not give us different or better results. Agriculture is at the threshold of a necessary paradigm shift and yet, we have not fundamentally altered the way we measure, understand, and incentivize our agricultural systems. A very diverse-thinking group of more than 70 agri-food leaders in the business, policy, “green,” and social arenas contributed their vision and bold ideas. By opening the silos of partisan thinking to invite reasoned discussion, this report exposes areas of disagreement and reveals many areas of common agreement about strategic options  that are available right now. It also lays out specific “high impact” areas where smart decisions will make the most difference for more sustainable and resilient food and agriculture systems.

The key points are distilled in this 2-page Policy Brief on Food and Agriculture: The future of sustainability Download PDF

Nine key areas of consensus have emerged as the key paths of action:

  1. Organized small and medium farmers, fully including women farmers, should be a primary focus of investment – recognizing that private enterprise will play a significant role in many solutions
  2. Define the goal in terms of human nutrition rather than simply “more production”
  3. Pursue high yields within a healthy ecology – they are not mutually exclusive and policy and research must reflect that
  4. Impel innovation and the availability of diverse technologies suitable in different socioeconomic and ecological contexts
  5. Significantly reduce waste along the entire food chain
  6. Avoid diverting food crops and productive land for biofuels, but explore decentralized biofuel systems to promote energy and livelihood security that also diversify and restore rural landscapes
  7. Insist on intelligent and transparent measurement of results – we cannot manage what we cannot measure
  8. Develop and adapt public and private institutions that can effectively respond to these new goals
  9. Motivate and reward investments and business systems that result in measurable impacts to the