We pay enough for our food?

A cheap tomato can in fact cost much more than the price suggests. Danielle Nierenberg of Food Tank and Emily Payne, a writer on food and agriculture, advocate for a profound transition in agriculture.

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What does it cost to get a tomato to grow? That depends on the input (water, soil, fertilizer, pesticides, use of machinery and labour). It also depends on the energy and packaging costs and transportation costs to the product in the store to get.

But that price reflects not always how the plant was grown, and, or, for example, there is water pollution due to residues of pesticides and fair pay for workers. ‘Cheap’ means in reality is often that high costs are what concerns the health of people and the planet.

Agricultural production, which is good for 43 to 57 percent of the emissions of greenhouse gases, as well as all indirect factors such as the felling of forests and the production of fertilizer, and packaging, are included. Almost 40 percent of all the food that is produced, is also lost. When the food breaks down, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times as powerful as CO2. Landfills are in the U.S. the third largest source of human-induced methane emissions.

Unhealthy food

Food systems today are focused on the production of cheap, processed food. Companies and large manufacturers tend to get subsidies for growing certain crops, generally in monoculture are grown and the soil robbing nutrients. It is becoming increasingly evident that poor diets worldwide cause health problems.


‘We pay enough for our food?’

Six of the eleven major risk factors for disease, are related to nutrition. The world health organization estimates that the direct costs of diabetes worldwide more than 827 billion dollars per year.

In 2050, about 10 million people to feed, we need the relationship between food production, health and climate change recognize. With the growth of the world population are also resilient food and farming systems are needed that meet human needs with minimum pressure on the environment.

Actual costs

In a recent report of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Agriculture & Food (TEEBAgriFood) is a new framework was developed in which the impact in the value chain is analysed, from farm to waste. The framework is intended for policy makers, researchers and citizens with reliable information about the real costs of our food system, not just parts of it.

This kind of thinking supports a way of thinking which is not the yield per hectare is used as a measure for success. Because if successful agriculture in this way it is assessed, many of the real costs out of view.


Worldwide keep proponents of transformation is concerned with the challenge of sustainable and restorative agriculture. They recognize that agriculture is a period of transition is entered. And they help build new systems that the food production increase to meet the needs of a growing world population and at the same time, the damage to the environment as much as possible.

It is now easier than ever to find out what impact our everyday decisions have, not only on ourselves but also on the environment and public health. By being aware of your CO2-footprint and water footprint, it is easier to understand how deep food systems and climate change are intertwined.

Individuals or organizations can the system do not restore. Companies, policy makers, farmers and, of course, consumers have a responsibility to ensure the protection of natural resources, social equality and promote a more sustainable food system to create on the basis of thoughtful decisions and responsible consumption.

Danielle Nierenberg is founder and president of Food Tank. Emily Payne is a writer on food and agriculture in New York.

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