Food is at the heart of every stable and thriving society. Yet change is urgently needed to make our food system work for this and subsequent generations. By focusing our minds, technology and cooperative efforts on challenges such as climate change, malnutrition and poverty, we can re-create our food system to support healthy people, a healthy planet and healthy livelihoods.
Eggs, fish, meat and dairy play an essential role in the human diet — even in a circular economy. More than 90 percent of farm animals’ feed is non-digestible to humans. Livestock provide a valuable service of transforming various agricultural byproducts and pastures in areas not suitable for crops or vegetables into nutritious food containing all nine essential amino acids and key micronutrients, such as iron and zinc, along with vitamins such as B12. At DSM, our Animal Nutrition and Health business group provides farmers with the most complete toolbox of solutions to raise healthy animals to produce healthy food.
In addition, at DSM we work with cross-sector partners such as the World Food Program, UNICEF, World Vision and Scaling Up Nutrition to provide fortified staple foods and health supplements in order to help provide 800 million people with key micronutrients by 2030.
Feeding 10 billion people by 2050 is a sizable challenge, and it will take an all-of-the-above approach to get there. Part of the solution is for farming to become more sustainable. That means addressing the roughly 1 billion tons of food wasted each year. At DSM we offer innovative, efficiency-boosting solutions all along the value chain — from production, storage and processing to final purchase and enjoyment by consumers. These solutions include getting the most nutritional value from each grain of feed, ensuring eggshells are sufficiently strong for transport, enhancing the consistency of cheese production and extending the shelf-life of meat, for example, using vitamins and biotechnology.
Food loss and waste is not just a missed opportunity to provide someone with a nourishing meal. Unused food also contributes to higher overall greenhouse gas emissions. Globally, farm animals account for one-seventh of all human-derived greenhouse gas emissions. That figure must shrink while farming must feed a few billion more people in the coming decades; not an easy task but a crucial one. It is important to point out that food and agriculture are not mere contributors but also among the biggest victims when it comes to climate change and biodiversity loss.
There is increasing recognition that we must keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement. Many agri-food companies and retailers, whose bulk of Scope 3 emissions occur on farms, are making public commitments to reach net zero by 2050.
A key milestone along the path to net zero is a 30 percent reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, and at DSM we have committed to enable double-digit, on-farm reduction of livestock emissions within that same timeframe. Fortunately, as an industry we already have the scientifically proven tools and knowledge needed to achieve a 30 percent reduction in GHG from eggs, meat, fish and milk by 2030. It will take courage and cooperation across the value chain to make this a reality. And because it requires changes to the business of food and farming, we must unlock valuable market opportunities that improve sustainability.
Farms are businesses, and making changes to a business (e.g., making investments, adapting processes, additional training, etc.) all incur costs. The question is how to fund a food sustainability revolution, considering the modest income that farmers earn across the world. In developed countries such as in Western Europe, where farmers are heavily subsidized and the average livestock farm generated an income of 50,000 euros (about US$52,000) in 2020, there is an opportunity to connect subsidies to improvements in sustainability.
A more farmer-centric system would reward more sustainable food production while ensuring affordability for consumers with the lowest incomes. This means unleashing consumer choice — a powerful lever in competitive markets — by providing clear and reliable information about the sustainability of food. It also means tapping into new sources of income — for example green bonds or incentives and payments for environmental services — so that farmers have science-based tools and the capital they need to invest in improving farm sustainability that supports people, profit and planet.
It is important to keep in mind that farm output and nutrition are inextricably linked. At DSM we work closely with partners across the world to help vulnerable people meet their daily nutritional requirements. This can start with something as simple as offering them an egg a day — the principle at the core of DSM’s Eggonomics initiative, launched in 2016 in Malawi, where 20 local farms now produce more than 25,000 eggs per day.
We recently expanded Eggonomics to Brazil and Peru, where the aim is to eradicate malnutrition in more than 50,000 children and to support an additional 2 million malnourished people this decade. These projects rely on local farms, helping to boost the health of the local economy while providing essential nutrition to local populations.
While the challenges of recreating our agri-food system may seem considerable, it’s important to have hope for the future. Drastic change, while sometimes difficult to imagine, is achievable. In 1902, DSM was established to mine coal reserves in the Netherlands. Over the years we’ve completely transformed. Our evolution has continued unabated since we closed the last coal mine in the early 1970s. Today, we are a global leader in health, nutrition and bioscience that is committed to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. That focus may be why we see so many interconnectivities between healthy people, a healthy planet and healthy incomes.
At DSM we’ve set ambitious targets in the form of our food system commitments. Re-creating our food system is not something that we’ll do alone. Together with our customers, partners, governments and other stakeholders, we make it possible.
This article series is sponsored by DSM Animal Nutrition and Health.
Image credit: Evi T./Unsplash
Ivo, a Dutch national, holds a Master in Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of Enschede, Netherlands. Ivo is an experienced senior leader working over 20 years in Materials and Life sciences industry with special focus on business generation, business development and innovation. Ivo has an international orientation and has lived and worked in the UK, Switzerland, Singapore and China. Ivo joined DSM in 1997 and held several positions in the Resins business before he moved to DSM Engineering Plastics in 2010. In September 2016, Ivo was appointed VP Global Strategic Marketing Human Nutrition & Health (HNH) with DSM Nutritional Products based in Switzerland. As such, he transformed the HNH M&S team to a market based and customer centric organization. On 1st July 2019, Ivo took over the lead of the Animal Nutrition & Health business (ANH) and was appointed President ANH.