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Publication | 2022

The future of food and agriculture – Drivers and triggers for transformation

Overarching concerns

  • Will global agrifood systems sustainably nourish humanity in the future, while also meeting the non-food demand for agricultural products and the demand for required environmental services?

  • Will socioeconomic systems evolve in such a way that income-earning opportunities will be assured to everyone, and that enough income will be universally assured to afford healthy diets that comprise food produced in a sustainable way?

  • Will the emergence of a critical and informed civil society, and active citizenships, be able to determine governmental action to set off effective triggers leading to transformative processes of agrifood systems?


  • Agenda 2030, including agrifood-related targets, is tremendously off track.

  • The development paths followed by high-income countries are not replicable in low- and middle-income countries... and they are not sustainable.

  • A change of mindset is needed – "more of the same" will lead the world to the point of no return.

  • Gradual transition will have to be perceived as fair to be economically and socially viable.

  • Agrifood sectors are key, yet no longer enough on their own, to ensure sustainable development and equitable access to food.

  • Indigenous Peoples’ food and knowledge systems can help nourish the world but are at risk of disappearing in the future.

  • Key priority "triggers" of transformation are available and strategic policy options exist to activate them. Institutions and governance, consumer awareness, income and wealth distribution, and innovative technologies and approaches are key priority triggers that influence important drivers of agrifood systems.

  • The future of agrifood systems may look like one of the four paradigmatic alternative future scenarios produced by this strategic foresight exercise… i) More of the same; ii Adjusted future; iii) Race to the bottom; iv) Trading off for sustainability;

  • …but will depend on the strategic and policy orientations directed at achieving an effective transition towards sustainable and resilient agrifood systems;

  • Better production starts from better, critical and informed consumption... Consumers hold the power to trigger transformative processes by shifting demand towards more environmentally and socially responsible, and nutritious products;

  • ...but producing more with less will also be unavoidable;

  • Technological innovations are part of the solution – provided new technologies and approaches are also accessible to the more vulnerable. Biotechnologies, digital, agroecological and other innovative technologies and approaches have the potential to increase efficiency and sustainability of agrifood systems;

  • Investment in agrifood systems is attracting new investors, but disparities across countries and regions are considerable;

  • During the transition towards sustainability, food prices are likely to increase...

  • ...yet environmental sustainability and food security can still go hand in hand if more equitable income and wealth distribution are pursued;

  • Immense masses of digital data and unprecedented analytical capabilities could trigger transformation of agrifood systems – this, however, is not free of potential hazards;

  • Agrifood systems should no longer be considered from the rural perspective only – urbanization, rural and urban areas should be seen as integrated entities;

  • The "sustainable ocean economies" approach aims at developing sustainably all aquatic sectors, including fisheries – yet, several constraints hamper its implementation;

  • Competitive and equitable domestic and international markets for inputs and outputs are a precondition for trade to become a trigger of development;

  • The COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of new conflicts both reveal the fragilities of agrifood systems, but lessons learned could trigger positive changes;

  • Global governance for globally shared issues is needed;

  • All countries, starting with wealthier ones, must commit to implementing fundamental structural changes and shoulder their costs.

The report explores 18 drivers of agrifood systems.