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The Economics of Sustainable Food

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The Economics of Sustainable Food

Smart Policies for Health and the Planet

Island Press,

15 min read
9 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Learn why the world’s agri-food systems must go green, and how policy can help.

Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Analytical
  • For Experts


The world can’t win the fight against climate change without changing the way it produces and consumes food. This authoritative volume, edited by economist Nicoletta Batini, offers a comprehensive survey of the challenges facing policy makers and scientists as they seek reforms to the agri-food sector. Although written for experts, the essays are clear and accessible enough to interest any reader seeking to understand the nexus of sustainability and food.


The world’s food systems are contributing significantly to global environmental challenges.

Agri-food – the world’s systems for producing and transporting food, as well as people’s dietary choices – play a bigger part in climate change than even fossil-fuel burning does. To meet the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the goals of the Paris Agreement, the world will have to green its food systems, and people will have to change the way they eat. Agriculture accounts for at least one-fifth and possibly more than two-thirds of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which, within food systems, primarily result from deforestation, the burning of fossil fuels, livestock methane releases and nitrous oxide discharged from soils and livestock operations. Livestock alone produce about 15% of all global GHG emissions.

Agricultural and fishing practices are harming the planet in other ways, too, such as by water use and pollution, fish stock depletion, the destruction of aquatic habitats and ongoing mass extinctions. Beyond their environmental impacts, the world’s food systems also contribute to economic inequality...

About the Author

Nicoletta Batini is an economist and a leading expert in the design of macroeconomic strategies dealing with climate change and public health. She is the lead evaluator at the International Monetary Fund’s Independent Evaluation Office.

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