This paper explores the role of the global food system as the principal driver of accelerating biodiversity loss. It explains how food production is degrading or destroying natural habitats and contributing to species extinction. The paper outlines the challenges and trade-offs involved in redesigning food systems to restore and conserve biodiversity, and provides recommendations for reducing pressures on land in the form of three levers. The first is to change dietary patterns to reduce food demand and encourage more plant-based diets. The second is to protect and set aside land for nature, whether through re-establishing native ecosystems on spared farmland or integrating pockets of natural habitat into farmland. The third is to shift to more sustainable farming. All three levers will be needed for food system redesign to succeed.
The authors’ recommendations for action are based around a series of major summits and conferences on food systems, climate, biological diversity, nutrition and related areas scheduled in 2021. These offer a unique opportunity for a ‘food systems approach’ to become embedded in international policy processes.