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The dark side of technology in the food industry

The race to achieve the UN’s Sustainability Goals could be causing more harm than good, according to a group of scientists.

Scientists from the Alliance of Bioversity International believe that technology could be having unintended consequences on the planet, as we struggle to make our food system more sustainable before the effects of climate change become irreversible.  

Protein derived from organic waste to feed livestock could decrease demand for soybean meal, which could lead to less deforestation caused by soy farming. However, scientists say a decreased production of soybean, which is also used to produce oil for food products, could increase demand for palm oil. This could clear more forests for oil palm plantations.

This is just one example of how innovations to fix our food systems could backfire. In a new analysis in The Lancet Planetary Health, a team of scientist have built on recent research that discusses how new technology is needed to improve human health and the wellbeing of the planet.

According to the authors of the study, the urgency to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) must be tempered by the understanding that there are no quick fixes to ending poverty, eliminating hunger and conserving biological diversity.

“The food system is in the mess it is right now because we introduce technologies and approaches to manage it without fully understanding all the indirect impacts the intervention can have,” said Andy Jarvis, a co-author and the associate director of the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

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