This article was originally published on nature News & Comment.


Think less about bigger crop yields, and more about better lives, says Pavan Sukhdev, as more-comprehensive evaluation techniques are unveiled.

“Today’s food systems are broken. Our diets are the leading cause of disease. Some 800 million people worldwide still suffer from hunger, while more than 2 billion are overweight or obese. As much as 57% of global greenhouse-gas emissions come from food-related activities, which include everything from clearing land for agriculture, to growing, gathering, processing and packaging, to transporting farm goods and disposing of waste.

I never fail to be astonished at the inadequacy of the metrics we use to evaluate these systems. The most common yardstick is ‘productivity per hectare’. This measure of the yield or value of a particular crop relative to the area of the land on which it was grown is too narrow. We need alternatives that account for the interacting complex of agricultural lands, pastures, inland fisheries, natural ecosystems, labour, infrastructure, technology, policies, markets and traditions that are involved in growing, processing, distributing and consuming food…”

Read on at: nature News & Comment.