31 May 2017


 • Coinciding with World Environment Day (5 June), and just a few days after the G7 summit in Taormina, the BCFN is shining the spotlight on the impact of agriculture on climate change.
 • 30% of greenhouse gas emissions come from food production, compared to 23.6% from heating and 18.5% from transportation. Farming alone produces 24% of global greenhouse gases and uses 70% of the world’s fresh water.
 • Italy stands out for its sustainable agriculture practices (in seventh place out of 15 nations on the Food Sustainability Index), but it’s still behind regarding the rate of young people and women working in agriculture and the average age of farmers (20th place on the Index), factors which are crucial to ensuring sustainable agricultural development in the future.
 • Things are starting to change, however: in Italy between 2014 and 2015, approximately 20,000 people under 30 joined the agricultural workforce (+12.4% compared to 1.1% of the overall economy), even if that number is still far off from those of France and Germany.
• The BCFN and the Milan Center for Food Law and Policy have launched the Food Sustainability Report: a quarterly document which aggregates and analyses important global topics related to food and sustainability.

To read the Food Sustainability Report, please visit www.foodsustainabilityreport.org

Reconnecting people with nature to save the planet and protect the environment: this is the main goal of this year’s World Environment Day, scheduled for 5 June, coming just a few days after the G7 meeting in Taormina which highlighted the stark contrast in the views of some of the world’s leading countries – including the USA – potentially jeopardising the climate policies approved in Paris during COP21. But where do we begin in tackling the challenge laid down by World Environment Day? To answer the question, we need to specify that, globally, the agricultural sector causes 24% of greenhouse gases (industrial sector reaches 21%, while transportation comes in at 14%). Nearly 40% of the earth’s surface is used for farming and raising animals; the amount of soil on the planet suitable for growing plants is equal to 4.4 billion hectares (a land mass 146 times the size of Italy) and, last but not least, agricultural activities consume 70% of the fresh water that we collect. According to the Food Sustainability Index1 , Italy is ranked 7th (out of 25 countries analysed) for “sustainable agriculture”, with a score of 59.81 out of 100. In other words, at the moment Italy seems to be doing well in terms of the environmental impact of farming. However, the future is shrouded in doubts and questions, especially in terms of the farmers themselves. Indeed, who will produce our food tomorrow

This is the very question, and warning, being posed by the Barilla Foundation (BCFN) for World Environment Day. To do so, the BCFN is analysing one of the parameters in the index, “land-users”, which considers three factors that will determine the future of our agricultural system: the percent of women working in agriculture, the percent of young people active in agriculture, and the average age of farmers. These three elements are useful indicators, providing a snapshot of a country’s ability to innovate. As the FAO has shown, young people are on the front lines of innovation across the board, and particularly in this field. Younger generations, thanks to targeted studies and supporting technology, pave new roads in agriculture: from soilless (hydroponic) farming to the use of systems which optimise water consumption, down to precision equipment and drones which monitor plots of land. In this regard, unfortunately, Italy is in a worrying 20th place, after Brazil (82.68 out of 100), various emerging economies and even after leading economies such as Israel (5th with 58.85 points out of 100) and Australia (11th with 49.63 points out of 100). So as not to fall behind other leading nations, Italy must rethink its agriculture. And to do so, the country needs young people to lead the way in terms of innovation, the use of new technology and the digitisation of the industry.


If the Food Sustainability Index attests to how Italy must concentrate on boosting the presence of young people and women in agriculture, recent data is encouraging: between September 2014 and 20152 the country recorded over 35,000 (of these 20,000 under 30) new workers in the agricultural sector (+12.7%). This number can be explained not only by the need to find a job, but also by a lifestyle choice and the need for a bone fide return “to nature” for younger generations in particular. It’s also a data point that reverses the trend seen over the five years from 2008 to 2013, when the number of agriculture employees under 24 years old shrank by 15%. However, despite this positive inversion, Italy’s ranking in relation to other European countries is still rather modest/low.

As shown in a study by Nomisma from 2014, if we put agricultural entrepreneurs under 35 years old side by side with those over 65, we would discover that only 14 youths for every 100 from the older group have chosen this career, while in France the same ratio comes to 73% and in Germany it even exceeds 100% (134%)3 . This fact accents Italy’s “risk of not innovating”, affecting a sector which has deep environmental impact and which should be investing heavily in new ideas. 

Marta Antonelli, Research Programme Manager at the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation, stressed the importance of generational change in Europe and the need to support it through EU-wide legislative tools: “We need to create a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which can shape a truly fair, healthy and sustainable food system, putting young farmers at the centre of this change. To reach this goal, the CAP neds to be modernised; it needs to integrate agriculture and healthier, more sustainable nutritional guidelines, along with economic sustainability and food security. The CAP should support farmers in being responsible for the provision of healthy, sustainable food at reasonable prices, while also taking care of the environment in rural areas. This is precisely why environmental considerations should be a priority in the decision-making process, for example, through “payment for eco system services”, incentives which stimulate business diversification and the maintenance of the land being used. Farmers should thus be thought of not just as food producers, but also as guardians of our environment.” 


Another important aspect considered by the “land-users” parameter of the Food Sustainability Index is the number of women in agriculture. To get an idea of how important this is, just think that by 2050, the earth’s population will exceed nine billion people and that we will need to further increase food production by 70% to feed everyone (as estimated by the FAO). For this reason, as the FAO has shown4 , we’ll also need a sizeable workforce which includes women. According to the most recent data available, women make up 43% of the workforce in jobs related to agriculture and they produce 70% of the food resources available (in Africa that number reaches 80%). In short, it would be quite difficult to feed the current global population without women. Yet, as explained by Danielle Nierenberg, Food Tank President and member of the BCFN Advisory Board, “It is essential for women to be recognised for their role as ‘wealth producers’, reinforcing, especially in rural areas, the network of public services such as healthcare, education and social services. In many countries, the quality of life of female food producers is very low and this can have an impact on the sustainability of the model over the long term.” This warning mustn’t be undervalued, because in absolute terms, although there are more men than women in the field, in rural societies the latter spend more time tending to the crops which feed the family and to that which actually generates a profit. At the root of discrimination against women in agriculture, specific aspects must be changed. For example, in many parts of the world women cannot own the land they work or they don’t have the right to use it long-term, or they have problems getting agricultural credit or accessing weather and temperature stats, which effectively exposes them to greater risks related to climate change5.  Yet overcoming such discrimination would significantly help resolve the issue of female unemployment.

The issues of female employment, climate change and food production in the face of global demographic growth have become even more topical given the recent G7 summit and the USA’s possible renegotiation of the Paris agreements. As a result of climate change, we are faced with a hugely serious drought which is devastating harvests and decimating water reserves: 13 million people are already on the brink of famine. This is why it is crucial to continue in the direction marked out in Paris, both by avoiding actions which would contribute to further climate change, and by focusing on women and young people to strive for innovation in the agricultural sector and limit the impact our food choices have on climate change.  


Among the best practices which have taken root in recent years and which touch upon “Connecting People to Nature” as hoped for on World Environment Day, is the growing phenomenon of urban farming. According to FAO data, urban farming is practised by 800 million people around the world and, in low-income areas, helps residents save money on fresh produce. Even though this activity remains informal (if not entirely illegal) in many parts of the world, ISTAT numbers indicate that in Italy there are 64 regional capitals that offer urban gardens up for management, with a 27.3% increase in the surface area available over four years, for a total upwards of 1.6 million square meters6.  The practice helps stop the deterioration of green spaces found between built-up surfaces while simultaneously serving a few social purposes (educational, therapeutic and community oriented, while also encouraging intergenerational and intercultural integration). Vegetable gardens are available in nearly all cities in the north and in more than two out of three in the centre (including Florence and Rome), while they are rarer in the south: less than one out of five cities have them (Naples and Cagliari among the large communities).

In terms of green spaces, 42 administrations in Italy have planted a tree for every new-born child, implementing law 10/2013 which establishes this obligation for municipalities with more than 15,000 inhabitants. In 2014, there were only 31. Growth is also being seen in allotments for the maintenance of green areas (for free or taking the form of court-ordered “community service”) to associations or individuals. There are 30 administrations currently participating: 71.4% of them have initiatives to develop or maintain these areas.


The Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition Foundation (BCFN) and the Milan Center for Food Law and Policy have launched the Food Sustainability Report, a constantly-updated tool to present complex topics related to food in order to raise awareness among government bureaus, institutions and the public about the urgent need to take action and make the global food system truly sustainable

Of the topics analysed in the first issue, people are also talking about defending biodiversity. More specifically, their attention is focused on the EU commission’s “Natura 2000” project. This ecological network is present in nearly 1/5 of the European Union, established to ensure the long-term survival of nearly one thousand threatened animal and plant species, and natural habitats.

Released quarterly, the Food Sustainability Report arose from constant analysis of the news and documents on food and sustainability published online by the main English-language sources, including information websites as well as those of international agencies, NGOs and research institutes. It is a snapshot of the quantity, prevailing content and current trends in research, legal policy and concrete actions already under way, taken through data reflecting the volume of information available, semantic analysis of topics getting the most attention, and the signalling of news reports, documents and research papers to read, consider and highlight. In short, the report is an aid for experts to navigate the flood of information about food and its impact on our society, the economy and the environment, offering insights as to how, and the extent which, these dynamics impact our daily lives and the fragile balance of the very complex food system. 

The first issue is available online at www.foodsustainabilityreport.org; the second issue of the report will be released in mid-July.

1  Index by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN) and the Economist Intelligence Unit, which covers more than 2/3 of the world’s population and 87% of the global GDP.

2 https://www.politicheagricole.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/IT/IDPagina/9777

“Giovani in Agricoltura, Risorse per il Paese. Prospettive, Politiche e Opportunità”, Nomisma study, 2014, http://www.largoconsumo.info/052015/DOCAgricolturaIndagineNomisma05-15.pdf

“The Role of Women in Agriculture”, FAO, 2011

5 http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTGENAGRLIVSOUBOOK/Resources/CompleteBook.pdf

“Report Ambiente Urbano”, ISTAT, 2015


Elena Cadel, Media Relations, mediarelations@barillacfn.com , +39 340 2946263


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 chairs 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

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