How farming can help to heal nature

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The global food system is at a crossroads. Five global thought leaders give their solutions for the future.

We are in the middle of the greatest demographic upheaval in human history. The world’s population is the largest it’s ever been and is still growing fast.


At nearly eight billion people, the global population has put a lot of demands on the planet.Just producing enough food for everyone contributes between 19 and 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions. The enormous swathes of land required for traditional agriculture has been one of the main drivers of environmental degradation, habitat loss and the collapse of nature

The destruction doesn’t just go one way. Climate breakdown has already been linked to smaller harvests. For farmers, it is not just the diet that suffers, but whole livelihoods. In India, climate change has been linked to higher suicide rates, as harvests fail and businesses fold.

This is all happening already, with a world population of less than eight billion. Failing to allow everyone access to food, and wasting it as a result, has meant that despite producing an abundance, famine and hunger have not been eradicated. By the middle of this century, the population is due to hit 10 billion, according to the UN’s calculations.

These are huge challenges. But the knowledge, practices and technologies to alleviate many of these problems already exist.The question is how we use them and who drives the change.

BBC Future and BBC World News asked global thought leaders – people with the ideas and influence to make change – how the world’s food system can change to make it sustainable.

Louise Fresco, president of the executive board of Wageningen University and Research, Netherlands

A shift to a plant-based economy is essential for the long-term future of food and farming, says Fresco. As the boundaries between urban and rural blur, agriculture is well-placed to lead this shift.

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Caleb Harper, director of the Open Agriculture Initiative at the MIT Media Lab

Some of the challenges can be met by technological solutions. High-tech innovations will lead a revolution in agriculture that makes it more precise, productive and sustainable, says Caleb Harper.

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Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank

Sustainable, low-carbon agriculture has to be the priority for subsidies and financial resources, says Georgieva.

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José Graziano da Silva, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN

Today, we are perfectly capable of eradicating world hunger, says Graziano da Silva, but the reasons we are failing to do so are because of the way that the food system is built.

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Pictures: Getty Images

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