Food sustainability? Why are we looking for another way

Food sustainability? Why are we looking for another way

September 7, 2020
The global food production industry is responsible for up to 30% of total ghg emissions. Today the world is facing the biggest food system failures that we have ever had.

Food is a BASIC need, like air and water. There is no doubt that food is essential in our lives, it is much more than just eating something that tastes good, It gives us vital nutrients to help ‘recharge’ our body. These nutrients are substances that provide us with energy for activities, materials for the growth and repair of the body, keeping the immune system healthy and is necessary for all the body functions to work; Such as breathing, digesting and keeping warm.

But it is not only because of this that food is essential. It is also part of our cultural identity and plays an important role in the world fight against hunger and climate change. 

Food production has a significant impact on the environment. The way we produce and consume food is hurting the planet and ourselves. Issues like: greenhouse gases emissions, the use of land and water resources, pollution, depletion of phosphorus, and the use of chemical products such as herbicides and pesticides are now part of our everyday news. 

Most in our society, compared to past civilizations that used to grow and hunt, buy their food in supermarkets, their food and in turn their energy depend too much on the food system. If today we had to tell everyone that markets no longer exist, that the only way to survive is to go out and make a living by hunting or farming, I'm pretty sure many people wouldn't be able to. 

International Association for Food Protection, World Resources Institute, World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization, and International Food Information Council are the most relevant organizations to keep an eye on. They  monitor food safety and food security and they provide us with information on a daily basis. Sustainability, biological diversity, climate change, nutritional economics, population growth, water supply and access to food are just some of the issues that they deal with.

The right to food is a human right derived from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), recognized the ‘right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food’, as well as the ‘fundamental right to be free of hunger’

But unfortunately, we know that this is not the case.

A number of global trends are influencing food security, poverty and the overall of food sustainability and agricultural systems. Today we are living through the biggest food system failures that we have ever had and this are just a few:

  • Population growth
  • Climate change 
  • Hunger and extreme poverty
  • Food waste
  • Conflicts, crises and natural disasters are increasing in number and intensity. 
A World Resources Institute (WRI) report states that global food production would have to increase 50% to feed the world’s 10 billion mouths in 2050, requiring a landmass twice the size in India.

The UN predicts a world population of almost 10 billion people by 2050; boosting agricultural demand, in a scenario of modest economic growth,by some 50 percent compared to 2013. 

If we are currently in trouble with the number of people we have, imagine with 10 million people. High population growth is one of the most worrying problems in the sustainable  and economic development world.

If you've been paying attention to the changing food climate news over the past several years, you ve probably heard that current food production is not enough to feed 9 billion people by 2050, but this is not entirely true. Factually we produce tons of food, but it is poorly distributed and wasted.

‘The field of food and nutrition is marked by numerous contradictions, which set rich countries against poor countries, but they are also present within the wealthy countries and affect all segments of the population. Globally speaking, the clearest antinomy involving food is the disparity between abundance and scarcity’ (Maria Cristina Martinengo 2017)

Climate change

Climate change is always happening and it's here. That is one thing easy to understand. 

But is also important to remember that the main influence that climate change can have is on the timescale of the century.

The fact is that we need more food to feed more mouths. Agriculture and livestock farming are using all our natural resources as if there is no tomorrow and without even thinking about our future generations. 

So we do need to feed more people, but the way we produce and consume our food creates competition for natural resources, increased greenhouse gas emissions, more deforestation and land degradation. What should we do? 

According to the IPBES is the (IPCC for biodiversity) 75% of Earth's Land Areas Are Degraded.
According to the IPBES is the (IPCC for biodiversity) 75% of Earth's Land Areas Are Degraded.

Today the food system is also responsible for the 30% of the planet-warming greenhouses that humans generate each year. That includes raising and harvesting all the plants, animals and animal products that we consume.

Probably one of the biggest problems here is: livestock, which is responsible for half of the ghg emissions mentioned before.

Another issue related to climate change and food is that food production uses enormous amounts of water. According to the Aquae Foundation, agriculture consumes 87% of the total water used for food  worldwide. And as for some products of the meat industry, here I leave you with some data: (15,400 liters of water to produce 1 kilo of beef; 8,700 liters for 1 kilo of lamb; about 6,000 liters for 1 kilo of pork and 4,300 liters for 1 kilo of chicken).

It is estimated that 70% of the world's water footprint is related to what we eat, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
It is estimated that 70% of the world's water footprint is related to what we eat, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Also we must not forget that there is an existing land degradation for many many years now. This means that soil and water efficiency is reduced, which results in decreased food production and increased production costs.

The vicious cycle of land degradation (UNCCD,2013)
The vicious cycle of land degradation (UNCCD,2013)

Hunger and extreme poverty

As we discussed earlier, Food supplies the fuel or energy needed to perform the many tasks of everyday living. We need energy to think, breathe, walk, sit, speak and even sleep. We get energy from carbohydrates, proteins and fats. For children it is  essential to have good nutrition. All the energy supplements derived from food that are essential for their developmental performance and for adults it is also very important to develop their maximum potential during the day.

Access to food is a fundamental human right. Is vital in order to perform well in life. But unfortunately not everyone has access to a healthy diet.

In 2014, 805 million people suffered from hunger, with a ratio of one to nine in the global population, despite advances made which reduced the number of people suffering from hunger by almost 100 million for each of the last two decades. 

Some facts: 

‘Almost 1 in every 15 children in developing countries dies before the age of 5, most of them from hunger-related causes.’ (UNICEF, 2008)

‘ 11.3% of the world's population is hungry. That's roughly 805 million people who go undernourished on daily basis, consuming less than recommended 2,100 calories per day’ (Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN, FAO, 2025) 

‘The world produces enough food to feed all 7 billion people, but those who go hungry either do not have land to grow food or money to purchase it.’ (Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN, FAO, 2025) 

Food waste

About one-third of all food produced globally, worth around $1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems, according to FAO.
About one-third of all food produced globally, worth around $1 trillion, gets lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems, according to FAO.

Food waste is an economic, humanitarian and environmental crisis. The amount of food waste is produced at all stages of production and consumption. Cultivation, processing, transport, storage, distribution and with plate waste in our homes or restaurants, that refers to the amount of leftovers portion in served food. 

One third of the food produced today is wasted. At the same time, around 800m people go to bed hungry every night. The FAO estimates that food waste represents an economic loss of US$700bn globally each year. Not to mention the amount of water and gases emitted to elaborate this food that could have been avoided.

Conflicts, crises and natural disasters are increasing in number and intensity. 

The low availability of food alarms care in health centers and undermines social protection systems. As a result, affected people are increasingly hungry and get sicker, with less access to food and health. This in turn increases the need for humanitarian assistance.

On average, the proportion of undernourished people living in low-income countries with a protracted crisis is between 2.5 and 3 times higher than in other low-income countries.

To conclude, it is clear that the food system must be changed in a sustainable way. But, what does a sustainable food system mean? 

The CGIAR ( The world's largest partnership of agricultural research for development organizations) defines it as follows: Sustainable food systems are those food systems that aim at achieving nutrition and food security, healthy diets while limiting negative environmental impacts and improving socio-economic welfare’

Increasing education on the subject is fundamental. Today's students are tomorrow's future and it is essential that they develop a pro-environmental behavior

The establishment of environmental education in schools serves to raise the awareness of students on environmental conservation and educate them about environmental issues and  food waste prevention.

A new way of thinking about food and health is emerging, but there is much more work to do before better integration of supply, society, and environment is achieved. 

There is definitely a huge inefficiency in our food system. 

Radical changes are needed in the way food is produced, distributed and consumed.

Awareness  is the first step.

What are we doing at Kernel to help solve the problem?

Concerned by the increasing demand of protein in the world we had the urge to end world hunger in a sustainable and supportable way by decentralizing the manufacturing of food, starting with proteins which are the most important macronutrient.

Kernel is a fungus-based protein with an excellent nutritional profile. It has a high biological value protein, a great amino acid profile (including lysin, one of the 10 essential for humans) and it is also sustainable with a massive reduction in environmental impact compared with other protein sources.

From day one our goal was to: Make a high nutritional value protein accessible to everyone. That's why we are working with AI to lower the cost to the maximum and we are working very hard to be able to manufacture in a decentralized way to make the ingredient accessible to everybody.

So, proteins for everyone and almost no environmental impact... Sounds great, right?