Book tackles the future of local and global agri-food systems


A new open-access book is the most authoritative study of the future of local and global agrifood systems, exploring today’s challenges and envisioning potential scenarios for food systems out to 2070.

The book, “Socio-Technical Innovation Bundles for Agri-Food Systems Transformation,” is part of the Sustainable Development Goals series and is published in Springer Nature’s inaugural cross-print book series. Lead authors include Chris Barrett, Mario Herrero and Rebecca Nelson of Cornell; Tim Benton of Chatham House and the University of Leeds; and Jessica Fanzo of Johns Hopkins University.

The book is the result of an expert panel, convened in 2019 by the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and Nature Sustainability, which engaged more than 20 business, government, nonprofit and scientific experts from around the world in a dialogue on the pressing challenges of food systems, sustainability and world hunger. These findings, contained in the book, offer recommendations for policy makers that the authors believe will lead to healthy and nutritious diets; fair and inclusive value chains; resilience to shocks and stressors; and climate and environmental sustainability.

“Nearly 3 billion people today cannot afford healthy diets, and the problem is only getting worse,” said Barrett, Professor Stephen B. and Janice G. Ashley at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell, with cross appointments in the Departments of Economics and Global Development, and the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy. “With inevitable population growth, it is impossible to continue on our current path without destroying the planet and putting billions more at risk.”

“Urgent solutions are needed now to transition our highly unsustainable global food systems into a future that can evolve within planetary boundaries to sustainably feed our growing population,” said Herrero, professor of sustainable food systems and global change in the Department. of Global Development, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a Cornell Atkinson Scholar. “Our current food systems are very productive, but this comes at a cost the planet simply cannot afford.”

Fanzo, Bloomberg Professor Emeritus of Food Policy and Ethics at Johns Hopkins University, said the book takes a transdisciplinary approach to the problem of hunger and food systems.

“Our main recommendations combine social and technological innovations,” Fanzo said. “There really is no single technology that is a magic bullet, but if we combine innovative technologies with methods to educate our food producers, they provide complementary benefits to solve critical problems.”

Throughout the panel process, Nelson, a professor in the School of Integrative Plant Sciences (SIPS) and Global Development, emphasized that a circular economy is paramount.

“We need to move from a mine or a make, use and waste model to a model where we recycle,” Nelson said. “What would it take to get people to develop value chains from underutilized organic resources such as crop residues, food scraps or agro-industrial by-products to reduce waste and dependency to fossil fuels?

Co-authors of the report, as well as complementary articles in Nature Sustainability and other journals, include: Ed Buckler, assistant professor at SIPS and Cornell Atkinson Fellow; Elizabeth Bagant, research support specialist in the Department of Public and Ecosystem Health at the College of Veterinary Medicine; and Daniel Mason D’Croz, senior research associate in the Department for Global Development (CALS).

A version of this article appears in the CALS Newsroom.

Nicole Rossi is a Communications Specialist at Food Systems and Global Change for the Department of Global Development at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.


Comments are closed.