‘Nature-based solutions’: another way to obstruct food system transformation?

With international climate negotiations in Egypt fast approaching (COP27), and food systems high on the agenda for the first time, IPES-Food is warning that a growing number of green buzzwords are being used to obstruct food system transformation. 

Our new briefing, ‘Smoke & Mirrors: Examining competing framings of food system sustainability’, looks at recent international summits. 

It reveals that, in the battle of ideas for the future of food systems, one controversial idea, ‘nature-based solutions’, is rapidly gaining traction. But the term lacks an agreed definition, a transformative vision, and is being used to maintain agribusiness as usual. It is often bundled with unproven and risky carbon offsetting schemes that entrench big agribusiness power. 

By contrast, ‘agroecology’ is a term given formal definition through democratic and inclusive governance processes, backed by years of scientific research and social movement legitimacy – but has been much less invoked in international food, climate and biodiversity governance spaces.

‘Regenerative agriculture’, though less used in global policy spaces, is used by many sustainable food system actors to emphasise regenerating natural resources. But it is increasingly prominent in corporate-led sustainability schemes, and risks being narrowed to a limited focus on soil carbon. 

Read more in our new briefing and the background study

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