Bank spells out its vision for healthier farming

Modern farming systems, currently dominant in western economies, have serious negative consequences. They cause severe soil degradation – over 50% of global arable land is degraded.

Biodiversity loss is a major issue as indicated by the 75% decline in flying insects over the past three decades, according to research conducted in Germany. Water depletion occurs with agriculture accounting for 70% of global freshwater withdrawals.

And farming has high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions where between 20-30% of global GHG emissions are related to agriculture. This is because modern farming systems depend heavily on synthetic inputs, adopt limited diversity, produce for global markets and have a high weighting towards livestock.

Now ethical bank Triodos wants to transform food and agriculture systems. It has called for a radical transition from current production-focused systems towards one that is ecologically and socially resilient and based on balanced ecosystems, a healthy society and inclusive prosperity.

The bank proposes that this will require a thorough redesign, with a renewed connection between consumers and the food they eat, and a revaluation of our food and its impact on the wider environment and our health.

The main goals of the bank’s suggested transition are for agriculture to work with nature rather than against it. At the same time, a balanced and resilient food system should be created to promote healthy diets and deliver fair pay for farmers.

Among the changes that the bank calls for are:

  • Balanced ecosystems as a basis for resilience in food production
  • A reduction in food waste, an adaptation of circular solutions and a reduction of reliance on fossil fuels
  • A healthy society consuming sustainable and nutritious diets
  • A move towards an 80% plant-based and 20% animal-based diet, a focus on locally- and sustainably-produced foods and an implementation of pricing structures that reflect the true cost of food
  • Inclusive prosperity through transparency and fair distribution of prosperity
  • Including sharing the prosperity generated across the value chain and governmental support for farmers transitioning away from intensive farming.

Simon Crichton (pictured), food, farming and trade team manager at Triodos Bank UK, comments: “The current agricultural system is not sustainable and has reached its limits. We must bring the use of ecosystems, our eating habits and increasingly globalised food markets in balance. We should strive to produce healthy food for all, while respecting the limits of our planet and paying farmers fairly. That means we need to rethink the way we produce and process food, as well as how we trade, store, transport, sell and consume food.

“In agriculture, banks should only invest in initiatives that have a positive impact on people and planet, which includes supporting those making a transition to more agro-ecological systems. Intensively farmed land risks becoming the stranded asset of the future, but thanks to regenerative agriculture we can avoid that.

“This transition needs the support of sound government policy across a number of departments and a nation of well-informed, conscious consumers, who are aware of the impact of the food they are eating. Overall, the focus of investment should be on the essence of our food system: providing nutritious food to all.”

The bank’s proposals are published ahead of the revision of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which is seen as an important moment for a fundamental redesign of the agricultural and trade framework.

The full vision paper ‘Towards ecologically and socially resilient food and agriculture systems’ can be downloaded here.

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