Food Systems

Food Systems

Cheap food is often very expensive
- Alexander Müller
Agriculture is a major driver of biodiversity loss, ecosystem degradation and human-driven climate change. Most food systems today neither provide sustainable livelihoods nor sufficient and healthy diets. At TMG, we recognise the urgent need to transform our food systems to support the resilience of our ecosystems, ensure equitable access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food, and provide secure livelihoods for farmers.
Drawing on in-depth scientific knowledge, and our long-standing experience in the governance of food systems, we advise and shape agricultural policy reforms at national and regional level. In partnership with leading food producers and financial institutions in Europe, we seek to build broad alliances to co-design economic and financial systems that account for the harmful environmental and social costs of current food systems, opening up avenues for their transformation.

Latest

Media Coverage
Our food system needs crisis proofing. Start with windfall tax
A call for a more adequate global response to the current crises

Topics

Digitalisation

Digitalisation

Exploring the role of digitalisation and social innovation for inclusive and resilient food systems.

While there are many successful development initiatives in the African region, entrenched structural inequalities and power asymmetries continue to lock out millions of people from taking charge of their own development aspirations.
The aim of this thematic research strand is to explore the role of digital solutions in further strengthening food security and livelihood opportunities for marginalised groups. We explore how digitalisation can enhance the empowerment of vulnerable groups through strengthening access to information and public services, lowering transaction costs, and improving the design and enforcement of relevant public policies. We recognise, however, that technology alone is not a panacea for all development challenges, and take a critical look at the threats, as well as opportunities, of increased digitalisation in the agri-food sector. We also explore how to link digital solutions to social capital in both formal and informal sectors, as well as successful digital business models that support disadvantaged groups.

Food Systems Transformation

Food Systems Transformation

Exploring equitable transformation pathways for a sustainable future of food systems

The global food system is broken – it is unsustainable, unhealthy, unjust, and in dire need of transformation. Our food systems contribute to climate change, biodiversity loss, unhealthy diets, hunger, and social inequality. There is need for fundamental changes to the way our food is grown, processed, distributed, and consumed. This aspiration is at the heart of the shift from the old agricultural productivity paradigm towards food systems, in line with the concept of planetary boundaries and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
But what does transformation really mean? And what do transformative pathways look like? And how can sustainable transformation be implemented in a just way?
This TMG research stream explores the meaning of the much-used phrase “food systems transformation” by applying a systematic approach to find transformative solutions at all scales. By analysing some of the challenges as well as drivers of transformation, we aim to bridge existing knowledge gaps around the concept of food system transformation.

True Cost Accounting in Agri-food Systems

True Cost Accounting in Agri-food Systems

Developing integrated accounting standards for the food and farming sector

Standard accounting and economic evaluation systems do not take full account of all four capitals − produced, natural, social and human − that are involved in the production, processing, marketing and consumption of food, and related services. This means that businesses and other actors are often not held liable for the negative externalities of their activities. Instead, the costs are often borne by society, and the environment. Examples include paying more for clean water due to the cost of removing pesticides from water sources, or higher prices for food due to reduced harvests from poorly managed soils.
Some costs, such as environmental degradation, extinct species, or climate change, are often deferred to future generations, or borne by local communities and regions far removed from the source of the problem. Unsustainable food systems can therefore be attributed, in large part, to the failure of current economic systems and accounting standards to redress such injustices by pursuing “the polluter pays” and other approaches to internalise these non-financial costs. 
This body of work seeks to contribute to the emergence of integrated valuation frameworks at both the level of individual businesses, as well as the overarching public policies, regulatory frameworks, and monitoring and reporting systems, that govern the agri-food sector.

News & Blog Posts

Our food system needs crisis proofing. Start with windfall tax
Media Coverage

Our food system needs crisis proofing. Start with windfall tax

A call for a more adequate global response to the current crises
Scientific Linkages Between Climate Change and (Transboundary) Crop Pest and Disease Outbreaks
Publication

Scientific Linkages Between Climate Change and (Transboundary) Crop Pest and Disease Outbreaks

A new working paper calls for urgent action to set up a "holistic early warning system"
We’re on the Cusp of the Most Catastrophic Food Crisis in 50 Years: Where Is the Global Response?
Media Coverage

We’re on the Cusp of the Most Catastrophic Food Crisis in 50 Years: Where Is the Global Response?

An unprecedented global crisis is in the making, due to the convergence of “Four Cs” (Conflict, Covid, Climate and Costs)
An unfolding global hunger crisis?
Publication

An unfolding global hunger crisis?

A call for transforming food systems to render them more resilient to crisis
The Right Way to Fight Global Hunger
News

The Right Way to Fight Global Hunger

Immediate responses to the current hunger crisis must also support the long-term transformation of food systems.
The new human environment
News

The new human environment

Climate, coronavirus, armed conflicts and hunger – "multilateralism as usual" will not be enough if we want to get a grip on the overlapping crises.

Publications

Scientific Linkages Between Climate Change and (Transboundary) Crop Pest and Disease Outbreaks

Working Paper

Scientific Linkages Between Climate Change and (Transboundary) Crop Pest and Disease Outbreaks

Alexander Müller, Adam Prakash, Elena Lazutkaite, Mark Davis, Ahmed Amdihun and Jully Ouma

Paving the way forward for improved crisis governance

An unfolding global hunger crisis?

Working Paper

An unfolding global hunger crisis?

Alexander Müller, Adam Prakash and Elena Lazutkaite

The developed world must share their grain reserves with countries in need instead of producing biofuels and meat!

True Cost Accounting Agrifood Handbook

Technical Guide

True Cost Accounting Agrifood Handbook

Olivia Riemer, Sivan van Leerzem, Dr. Janine von Wolfersdorff and Gyde Wollesen

Practical guidelines for the food and farming sector on impact measurement, valuation and reporting

A Scoping Paper on the Ongoing Desert Locust Crisis 2019-2021+

Working Paper

A Scoping Paper on the Ongoing Desert Locust Crisis 2019-2021+

Alexander Müller, Swantje Nilsson, Adam Prakash and Elena Lazutkaite

A call to instill and coordinate innovative early warning and outbreak prevention systems both at the global and regional level to increase resilience in times of the climate crisis

True Cost Accounting and Dietary Patterns: A Strategy for Transformative Food Systems

Working Paper

True Cost Accounting and Dietary Patterns: A Strategy for Transformative Food Systems

Michael Hamm, Olivia Riemer, Alexander Müller, Kathleen Merrigan

An analysis of the true costs of sustainable and healthy food and how True Cost Accounting, TCA can be argued for – and what political asks can be phrased from it – starting from the vantage point of sustainable diets.

True Cost Accounting and Dietary Patterns: The Opportunity for Coherent Food System Policy (Full Report)

Report

True Cost Accounting and Dietary Patterns: The Opportunity for Coherent Food System Policy (Full Report)

Michael W. Hamm, Olivia Riemer and Tanja Ploetz

An analysis of the true costs of sustainable and healthy food

Videos

  • Transforming food systems from the bottom up: Social innovations for soil restoration

    A conversation around land rights and agricultural transformation

  • In Harmony with Humanity and Nature: How a Project in Southern India Creates New Perspectives

    An application of the True Cost Accounting methodology in India

  • Innovative digital tools to enhance food security in Africa (Highlights)

    A contribution to debates on the EU Comprehensive Strategy with Africa

  • The Interconnectedness Between the Ongoing Desert Locust Crisis 2019-2021+ and the Climate Crisis

    Session hosted by TMG, BMZ, IGAD and the Swette Center at Arizona State University.

  • Land-Food-Climate: Tackling the climate implementation gap

    Second event of the series "Land-Food-Climate: An African-European Dialogue on Climate Resilience"

  • Land-Food-Climate: Climate Resilience through the Right to Food

    First event of the series "Land-Food-Climate: An African-European Dialogue on Climate Resilience"

  • Land-Food-Climate: An African-European Dialogue on Climate Resilience

    Teaser video for the "Land-Food-Climate: An African-European Dialogue on Climate Resilience" event series

  • True Cost - From Costs to Benefits in Food and Farming

    A short video presenting the "True Cost - From Costs to Benefits" in Food and Farming initiative

Events

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TMG Think Tank for Sustainability consists of TMG Research gGmbH, an independent, non-partisan, non-for-profit organisation registered in Berlin (District Court Charlottenburg, HRB 186018 B, USt.-ID: DE311653675) and TMG - Töpfer Müller Gaßner GmbH, a private company registered in Berlin (District Court Charlottenburg, HRB 186018 Bm USt.-ID: DE311653675).

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