Transforming agricultural land use through marginal gains in the food system

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Abstract

There is an increasing need for transformational changes in the global food system to deliver healthy nutritional outcomes for a growing population while simultaneously ensuring environmental sustainability. However, such changes are subject to political and public constraints that usually allow only gradual, incremental changes to occur. Drawing inspiration from the British cycling team's concept of marginal gains, we show how transformation might be reconciled with incremental changes. We demonstrate that a set of marginal food system changes acting to increase production efficiency, to reduce losses or to adjust diets could collectively reduce the agricultural land required globally for food production by 21%, or over a third given higher adoption rates. The results show that while all categories of action are important, changes in consumer choices in Europe, North America and Oceania and in the supply-chain in Africa and West and Central Asia have the greatest potential to reduce the land footprint of the food system.

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Alexander, P., Reddy, A., Brown, C., Henry, R. C., & Rounsevell, M. D. A. (2019). Transforming agricultural land use through marginal gains in the food system. Global Environmental Change, 57. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2019.101932

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