Changing The Game


 NewForesight Consultancy and Nyenrode Business University are developing a new book on sustainable market transformation, to be published by Taylor & Francis. It will apply systems thinking to sustainable market transformation, showing how sectors go through phases of market transformation before reaching “full” sustainability. The book will not only be sold internationally, it will also be used as curriculum at business schools and by international companies to drive their sustainability and CSR strategies. I am proud to be teamleader for the chapter “Agro & food “.

Chapter,  The Agricultural Sector in Transition.

By Niko Wojtynia, Illona Buddingh-Maas, Niels Dijkman, Dico Drost, Richard Janssen, Louke Koopmans, Katie Minderhoud, Tom Vereijken, Rogier Verschoor

At the height of the 2019 Amazon rainforest fires, more than 18,000km2 – almost the size of Slovenia, or the US state of New Jersey – were ablaze.1 The leading cause? For a large part, slash-and-burn agriculture, clearing land by fire to grow soybeans and create pasture for cows.2 Breaking news at the end of the summer of 2019: leading food multinationals are sourcing “conflict palm oil” from a biodiversity hotspot from the Indonesian island of Sumatra, putting endangered elephants, rhinos, tigers and orangutans at even greater risk of extinction.3 In Europe, older generations talk about the decline of birdsong and chirping insects in the summer. In 2017, German scientists publish a paper confirming an astounding 82% decline in insect biodiversity over since 1980,4 driven primarily by an intensification of farming practices.5

Importance of food and farming to society
Agriculture has given us access to new sources of food and allowed us to build civilizations the world had never seen before. Throughout the millennia, we have carefully created new strains of crops, rendering them edible, more nutritious and, in the most modern cases, even making them more resistant against certain pests and diseases. Agriculture provides for the most elemental physiological human needs: Food is on the same level as air, water and shelter in making human life possible. It also is intimately connected with the human need of health, as anyone familiar with the fortifying properties of grandma’s chicken soup, or a vibrant, vitamin-rich green smoothie, will know. Agriculture also provides direct employment for hundreds of millions of people, as we will see later in this chapter. On a higher level, food aids in our sense of belonging: sharing food is one of the most grounding and intimate experiences, and breaking bread has signified peace since biblical times and is even the origin of the word company. And what is more central to a culture than its food – what is Italy without pizza, India without curries, Hungary without goulash?

Major sustainability challenges
It is clear that we cannot do without food. It is also clear, as the opening paragraph to this chapter shows, that the way we produce it has turned into a crisis of frightening proportions: conventional farming methods deplete soils, destroy habitats, pollute water and air, and make a major contribution to global warming, all in the pursuit of efficiently producing food. At the same time the primary purpose of food production – to feed and nourish us – is not being met: a fifth of people in poor countries suffer hunger, 1.2 billion worldwide lack the right nutrients in their diet, and 1.9 billion worldwide lack the right nutrients in their diet, and 1.9 billion are
overweight or obese. If you add these up, more than half of the human population is malnourished. To put this in perspective, more people die in the 21st century due to a poor diet than because of unsafe sex, alcohol, drug and tobacco use combined.6 How did we get into this mess? Who is causing
this? What are governments and powerful corporations doing to address it? Are we collectively doing enough of the right things to turn the tide – and if not, what should be done? These are the questions we will try to answer in this chapter. A food system with many faces Several distinctions can be made to understand the different types of agriculture. The first is whether
or not a crop is grown for consumption of the farmer and his family, or for sale: subsistence farming vs. cash crop. While subsistence farmers number in the hundreds of millions, they account for little overall food production: low-income countries, where subsistence farming is practiced, account for
only 3% of global food production.7 A second distinction is whether a crop is grown for human consumption, for livestock feed, or for other purposes: food vs. feed vs. other purposes. These other purposes include biofuels, fiber for clothing, use as ornamentals and industrial applications.
A third distinction is the degree of processing required before a crop can be consumed or used: raw vs. processed food. Fresh fruits and vegetables can often be eaten raw (cleaned of course of any soil or agrochemical clinging to the outside), while palm oil or rapeseed are useless in their raw state. Such
oilseeds on the other hand can be crushed and then stored for a relatively long period of time, whereas fresh produce, dairy, meat, poultry, fish and eggs are all at risk of spoiling if not stored and cooled. 

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