Problems caused by current market actions

Unsustainable sourcing, production and consumption of our basic commodities

Income and population growth are the root causes of rising consumption, and unsustainable production threatens our natural resources.
  • Global consumption of round wood is expected to triple by 2050,
  • Meat consumption in East Asia will double to 80kg per person per year by 2050,
  • Bio-fuels could increase by 50% the amount of land in agriculture and forest plantations by 2050 and,
  • 75% of all global fisheries are already fished at, or beyond capacity.

Our Earth is under increasing stress from:

Unsustainable, intensive agricultural practices

  • Land use conversion
    Pasture and cropland count for 50% of the Earth´s habitable land. Cutting down forests and clearing land for growing food, bio-fuels and/or cattle grazing affect wildlife and habitats in sensitive regions. A report published in 2007 by the United Nations (UNPFII Forum on Oil Palm) acknowledges that palm oil plantations are the leading cause of rainforest destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia.
  • Pollution
    ...caused by pesticides and fertilisers that are used in intensive farming practices. They poison fresh water, marine ecosystems, the air and the soil where they can accumulate and persist for generations.
  • Farming animals for meat and dairy
    Farm animals take up 70% of all agricultural land, and over 40% of the world’s grain harvest is fed to livestock. Farming animals for meat and dairy requires huge inputs of land and water for growing animal feed.
  • Excessive water consumption
    ...used for growing crops and producing food. Agricultural water dominates our water footprint  - about 69% of the planet´s fresh water is used by the agricultural sector. As commodity production will grow even further, water consumption is predicted to rise by 13% over the next 20 years. In addition to public health risks from not having access to safe water, there are many other problems such as higher energy prices and political instability (massive shifts of populations and water wars).
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions intensifying climate change
    A number of farming practices - from burning fields to using gasoline powered machines - are significantly building up greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. According to estimates, agriculture is responsible for a significant portion of the greenhouse gases altering the Earth's climate. The FAO recently stated that the livestock sector alone is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas production. Additionally, clearing land for agricultural production is a leading contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Overfishing and poorly managed fisheries

  • Already 75% of the world's fisheries are fully exploited or overfished. With an estimated global turnover of 10 billion euros a year, IUU (Illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing is big business.  In the EU alone, yearly illegal fisheries imports amount to approximately 500,000 tons for a value of 1.1 billion euros.

    Fishing of commercially important fish stocks such as tuna or white fish damages marine environments, undermines legal fisheries, threatens livelihoods and erodes food security around the world.

    Controls to protect our oceans are not respected by everyone and illegal fishing is widespread with a value estimated to be between 7-16 billion euros, representing between 11.06 and 25.91 million tonnes.

Unsustainable aquaculture

  • Unsustainable aquaculture threatens wild species and coastal habitats.

    For instance, 45% percent of the shrimp we consume is produced by aquaculture. Over the last years, shrimp production has increased by approximately 10% annually.

    Also the salmon farming industry has rapidly expanded since the 1980s. Almost 60% of the world’s salmon is now produced via aquaculture, creating a 3.8 billion euro industry that generates almost 2 million metric tons of farmed salmonids each year.

Pressure in these specific areas is inherently linked with global industries and increasing demand for food, feed and fibre.

Bio-energy facts

Bio-energy accounts for more than 10% of the energy consumed, most of it in developing countries. Global production of first-generation bio-ethanol in 2006 was about 51 billion litres - this is fuel made from sugar, starch, vegetable oil, or animal fats using conventional agricultural technologies.

The US is the world's largest producer with 18.3 billion litres from corn; Brazil comes second with around 17 billion litres from sugarcane followed by China and India.

Bio-energies are not automatically environmentally sustainable just because they are a renewable resource.
 / ©: © AGROTOR
Aerial view of palm oil processing plant, Honduras
Aerial view of shrimps farms, developed by AQUAMEN PECHE SA , surrounded by mangrove forests. Belo sur Mer. Madagascar
© WWF Madagascar - WWF Canon
  •  / ©: Michel Gunter/WWF-Canon

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