10 food sustainability issues to consider

According to The Hunger Project 1 in 9 of the Earth’s population do not get enough to eat. Meanwhile an estimated 30% of food is wasted by the rest of us. I always like to talk about solutions so here’s a link to my article on the benefits of organic food. Meanwhile here are ten food sustainability issues to be aware of:

  1. Deforestation. Products such as palm oil and the beef industry cause widespread loss of forests; large areas are clear-cut to provide room for these sustainability issues
  2. Climate Change. Agriculture is responsible for around 20% of CO2 emissions which lead to climate change. Agriculture is also affected by climate change in many ways, including unpredictability of future yields (source:
  3. Overfishing. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated in a 2018 report that in 2015 33.1% of world fish stocks are now subject to overfishing. That’s an increase from 10 percent in 1974 (source: This is one of the most serious food sustainability issues.
  4. Pesticides. Pesticides protect crops from insects and other “pests” but most of these chemicals end up in our waterways and in our food chain, causing problems for humans and waste
  5. Palm oil appears in many food and cosmetic products and is the largest driver of Indonesian deforestation. This destroys habitat and contributes to climate change. Wastewater ponds at palm oil refineries release large amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas (source:
  6. Fertilizer runoff.  Chemical fertilizers and animal manure provide crops with the nitrogen and phosphorus necessary to grow and produce the food we eat. However, these chemicals can leach through the soil into the groundwater. They can also be carried by rain and snow creating “dead zones” which kill fish and threaten aquatic life. Excess nutrients can also cause algal blooms in freshwater systems, which disrupt wildlife and can also produce toxins harmful to humans.  (source:
  7. Food waste. A serious food sustainability issue. The World Bank estimates roughly 30% of all food is wasted, amounting to 1.3 billion tonnes per year. This is estimated to grow to 70% by 2050 unless action is taken (source:
  8. Intensive use of water. Some foods require more water to produce than others. Meat products tend to be water-intensive because livestock consume a lot of food. For example, a pound of beef requires an estimated 1875 gallons of water, a pound of chicken 293 gallons. Shelled almonds and walnuts are very water-intensive, requiring an estimated 2126 and 1226 gallons respectively. Wheat requires 241 gallons per pound, corn 161 gallons (source:
  9. Fish farming. Intensive fish farming is a food sustainability issue that affects our ability to feed the world. It may mean fish living in cramped conditions, which is unnatural and has led to disease epidemics which can spread rapidly to the wild fish population, adversely affecting the gene pool.  Fish are treated with antibiotics which are eventually consumed by humans. There is much debate about the long term effects of consuming fish treated by chemicals and the effects these chemicals have on the wider marine environment and food chain (source:
  10. Excessive packaging. According to between a quarter and a third of all domestic waste is packaging. The global crisis of plastic covering every quarter of the Earth, covering the natural beauty of beaches, open spaces and oceans and presenting a lethal hazard to wildlife is now well-documented (source:

Clive Margolis

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