22 Apr 2016


On the eve of Earth Day and the ratification of the agreement made on 12 December in Paris at COP21 by the signatory countries, the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation is highlighting the impact of our daily food choices and the importance of adopting sustainable diets for preserving the well-being of people and the planet. BCFN is in Rome to present the second edition of “Eating Planet. Food and Sustainability: Building our Future”.

In 2050, the world’s population will exceed 9 billion with a demand for food increasing by 56%. Given this possible rise in food production – and consequential environmental impact – it may well be difficult to limit global warming to 2˚C, which is the objective set last December at the Paris Conference (COP21). Although it may seem that in order to feed the growing number of people around the world it is necessary to produce more, this is not the solution. In fact, we are currently wasting a third of global food production, which is the equivalent of four times the quantity needed to feed 795 million malnourished people around the world, as well as having a significant environmental impact since food releases methane when it rots; a greenhouse gas which is 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Consequently, adopting a sustainable diet according to the Food and Environment Double Pyramid model, which promotes the Mediterranean diet with benefits for human health and the environment, as well as tackling food waste to reduce it by 50% by 2020, are now fundamental objectives in achieving a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. These are two of the main solutions put forward by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation as set out in the second edition of “Eating Planet. Food and Sustainability: Building our Future”. This book highlights how our food choices play a key role in protecting the planet. It is part of the approach adopted by the BCFN Foundation following Expo 2015 and on the eve of the signatory countries’ ratification of the Paris Agreement, a missed opportunity to bring food and its consequential environmental impact to the centre of the political debate, under the auspices of Earth Day (22 April).

Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to the use of fossil fuels, tropical deforestation and the intensification of agriculture. Indeed, tropical deforestation caused by the expansion of new agricultural land produces emissions equal to 3.6 billion tonnes of CO2 per year, but it is agricultural activity which is having an unprecedented effect on greenhouse gas emissions, producing an equivalent of around 6.2 billion tons of CO2, making it the number one culprit for greenhouse gas emissions, ahead of the energy and transport sectors. As highlighted by WWF Italia, agriculture is the activity which occupies the largest area of the planet’s land surface: indeed, almost 40% of the total surface is set aside for agriculture or animal husbandry, using 70% of the world’s fresh water to irrigate cultivated fields, also making it the biggest cause of biodiversity loss.
According to Paolo Barilla, Vice President of the BCFN Foundation,the significant benefit of the World Expo in Milan and COP21 was that they focused the attention of the media and public opinion on the main issues connecting food, people and the planet. However, while Expo 2015 did not fully explore the paradoxes in the food system, the Paris Conference did not discuss its impact on climate change, especially in light of the Sustainable Development Goals. The high environmental impact is caused by what we eat, we are literally devouring our own planet. And yet, during the COP21 there was very little discussion about sustainable diets. Food needs to be placed at the heart of all stakeholders’ programmes: from the scientific community to business, from institutions to individuals, everybody can and must play a pivotal role. This is what we are trying to do with the work of the BCFN Foundation, providing information to enable people to make informed decisions about the food they eat”.

Indeed, adopting a sustainable diet can help individuals to maintain a low environmental impact, protecting and respecting biodiversity and ecosystems and, at the same time, retain a high level of food and nutritional security, as well as being economically affordable.

The second edition of the annual Food Tank summit in Washington D.C., on 20 and 21 April, held in partnership with the American University, represented by Alumni, young researchers from the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, saw a presentation by Behtash Bahador who, from the Youth Manifesto to Eating Planet, showcased the initiatives of young researchers from BCFN to build a more sustainable future. The summit featured 70 speakers from the food and agriculture sectors. Researchers, farmers, chefs, politicians, government officials and students came together to debate the challenges of the future such as: feeding the planet, investing in agriculture, changing legislation in the food system and many more. The event includes an interactive panel moderated by leading food journalists, along with networking and food. This is the first in a series of four two-day summits in 2016 which will bring together the most important figures in the global food system. Last year, the Food Tank summit sold out within minutes, attracting over 15,500 spectators.
Soil Protection, Sustainable Agriculture and the Evolution of Smart Cities
Issues related to food cannot be separated from those regarding sustainable agriculture. With this in mind, the first problem to tackle is the protection of the soil. According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation), 25% of the planet’s soils are seriously damaged and only 10% show some sign of improvement. Over the last 40 years, 30% of the world’s agricultural land has become unproductive. If we focus on Europe, one of the continents where land is used in an extremely intensive way, between residential areas, production systems (including agricultural and forestry systems) and infrastructure, 80% of the land available has been used up. And yet, at the same time, sustainable and urban agriculture are being promoted as feasible ways of mitigating the effects of climate change, reducing illnesses linked to food and their related costs, as well as making cities better places to live.

An example of an integrated approach which takes into account the various challenges regarding food security and climate change is known as ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’. This strives to improve economic sustainability by supporting the development of economic revenue for the agricultural and social sectors, strengthening the resilience of the food system faced with climate and environmental change and reducing or eliminating greenhouse gas emissions.

Fighting Food Waste: A 50% Reduction by 2020
If food waste were represented by a single country, it would be the world’s third biggest producer of carbon dioxide, after the USA and China. In Italy alone, 35% of fresh products are currently wasted (dairy products, meat, fish), along with 19% of bread and 16% of fruit and vegetables produced, amounting to a wastage of 1,226 million m3 of water per year; the equivalent of 2.5% of the entire yearly flow of the river Po and produces emissions of 24.5 million tons of CO2 into the environment every year.

However, food waste is not just produce which is unused at the end of the food supply chain, during distribution, sale and consumption, but also food which is lost during the agricultural production stage, after the harvest and in the food processing stage. Waste and loss is greatly influenced by the specific local conditions in different countries. Food wasted by consumers represents on average between 95kg and 115kg per person per year in Europe and North America while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, South and South-East Asia throw away between only 6kg and 11kg of food per year. In developing countries, 40% of food waste occurs after the harvest or during processing, while in industrialised countries over 40% takes place during the stages of retail and consumption. Nevertheless, overall, industrialised and developing countries tend to waste around the same quantity of food; 670 and 630 million tonnes respectively.

Leading names in the fields of science, environment and food, both in Italy and around the world, participated in and contributed to the production of Eating Planet.
BCFN would like to thank Tony Allan, Gianfranco Bologna, Barbara Buchner, Paolo De Castro, Sara Farnetti, Ellen Gustafson, Michel Heasman, Hans R. Herren, Alexandre Kalache, Aviva Must, Marion Nestle, Danielle Nierenberg, Jamie Oliver, Shimon Peres, Carlo Petrini, Gabriele Riccardi, Camillo Ricordi, Paul Roberts, Vandana Shiva, Pavan Sukhdev, Ricardo Uauy, Riccardo Valentini.

Over the course of the year, Eating Planet will be presented in New York, Naples, Rome and at key national events dedicated to culture, science, literature and sustainable development.

Caterina Grossi, Media Relations Manager, caterina.grossi@barillacfn.com, +39 0521 2621

Simone Silvi, Senior Account Media Relations, s.silvi@inc-comunicazione.it, +39 335.10.97.279
Francesca Riccardi, Media Relations Consultant, f.riccardi@inc-comunicazione.it, +39 335.72.51.741

The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN Foundation) is a think tank created in 2009 in order to analyse the key issues connected to food and nutrition around the world. By adopting a multi-disciplinary approach, economic, scientific, social and environmental factors are studied in terms of their effects on the food system. The President and Vice President of the BCFN Foundation are Guido and Paolo Barilla, while the board of directors is made up of, among others, Carlo Petrini, the President of Slow Food and Paolo De Castro, who ch3airs the committee on agriculture and rural development at the European Parliament. The Advisory Board oversees the work of the BCFN Foundation. For more information: www.barillacfn.com; www.protocollodimilano.it