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Today, consumers are charged more for organic food than for conventionally produced food. But given the latter’s ecological footprint, this ought to be the other way round, our author of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation maintains. To make this happen, he calls for public policies to be reformulated so that they include social and environmental costs and benefits in their food and agriculture legal frameworks.

Despite the fact that as many as 72 out of 129 developing countries have reached the hunger target of the Millennium Development Goals and the proportion of undernourished people in the developing regions has fallen by almost half since 1990, more than 800 million people still suffer from hunger, and two million from micronutrient deficiencies. A further 1.9 billion are overweight, increasingly also in the Global South. The pollution and degradation of air, soil and water as well as the loss of genetic heritage, together with the changing and increasingly unpredictable climate, threaten the foundation of food production and the livelihood of the world’s population. The present-day food system cannot provide enough healthy food for all while preserving the environment.

With an expected two thirds of the world population living in cities by 2050, food habits are going to change, and a growing number of people with low purchasing power will not be able to feed themselves decently. Also, food production will continuously shift to peri-urban and urban regions, where the pressure on available resources is growing drastically. Access to land is highly contested, and water resources are scarce and often polluted.

As José Graziano da Silva, Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), stated at the opening of the recent 2nd Agroecology Symposium in Rome, Italy, there is urgency “to get out of the trap of conventional, high-resource input systems with increasing productivity at any social and ecological costs, still not leading out of hunger for over 800 million people”.