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Healthy eating ‘impossible’ under intensive farming

Unhealthy food production is making healthy eating impossible due to pesticide exposure and water contamination, a new report has found.

The report, published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, found that excessive use of pesticides, antibiotics in livestock farming, and poor management of fertilisers could lead to five million deaths a year globally by 2050, more than the current number of deaths caused by obesity and road traffic crashes globally.

Based on its findings, the report set out a plan for a circular economy for the food industry, with three main ambitions: source food grown regeneratively, and locally where appropriate; make the most of food (use by-products more effectively, prevent waste); design and market healthier food.

“The way we produce food today is not only extremely wasteful and damaging to the environment, it is causing serious health problems. It cannot continue in the long term,” said Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “We urgently need to redesign the system. People around the world need food that is nutritious, and that is grown, produced and delivered in a way that benefits their health, the environment and the economy.”

It said that 80 per cent of food will be consumed within cities by 2050 and they will play a key role in creating a healthy food system.

Within the report, regenerative food production is defined as any system that improves the health of the local ecosystem, including organic fertilisers, crop rotation and crop variation to promote biodiversity. In particular, it mentions farming types such as agroecology, agroforestry, conservation agriculture, and permaculture.

“Cities cannot of course implement these techniques alone. Collaborating with farmers, and rewarding them for adopting these beneficial approaches, will be essential. In parallel, cities can use circular urban farming systems, such as those that combine indoor aquaculture with hydroponic vegetable production in local loops,” the report said.

The report was launched at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos in January.  

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