Handbooks on Globalisation series
Edited by Guy M. Robinson and Doris A. Carson
Chapter 4: Measuring and managing the global agricultural footprint of countries’ consumption
Globalisation increases the share of foreign resource supply, also for agricultural goods. Locations of production and consumption are drifting apart, leaving conditions and consequences of production hidden to consumers. Certification schemes try to bridge that gap. However, the major part of agricultural markets remains unaffected. As long as the global demand for food and non-food crops is growing, standards for selected products will be insufficient to control the global expansion of cropland, which will continue in particular in the tropics at the expense of grasslands, savannahs and forests, leading to biodiversity loss and increased GHG emissions in the coming decades. Without drastically increasing the efficiency of biomass use a sustainable supply of food and non-food biomass will not be possible, both globally and in particular regions. An essential condition for a globally safe operating space of biomass use is that the expansion of cropland will come to a halt. Measuring the global use of cropland for the domestic consumption of all agricultural goods allows countries to monitor whether their real footprint is within or beyond the safe operating space. Using data for the European Union, this chapter shows how such monitoring could provide the basis for governments to adapt the incentive framework for industry and households to increase efficiency in the use of biomass (e.g., reducing food waste). Policies could include removal of misleading incentives and subsidies, such as biofuel quotas in those countries where the real footprint is already globally oversized.
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