How the industrial food system contributes to the climate crisis
Between 44% and 57% of all GHG emissions come from the global food system
Before the planting starts, the bulldozers do their job. Worldwide, industrial agriculture is pushing into savannas, wetlands and forests, ploughing under huge amounts of land. The FAO says the expansion of the agricultural frontier accounts for 70-90% of global deforestation, at least half of that for the production of a few agricultural commodities for export. Agriculture's contribution to deforestation thus accounts for 15-18% of global GHG emissions.
It is generally acknowledged that farming itself contributes 11-15% of all greenhouse gasses produced globally. Most of these emissions result from the use of industrial inputs, such as chemical fertilisers and petrol to run tractors and irrigation machinery, as well as the excess manure generated by intensive livestock keeping.
The industrial food system acts like a global travel agency. Crops for animal feed may be grown in Argentina and fed to chickens in Chile that are exported to China for processing and eventually eaten in a McDonald's in the US. Much of our food, grown under industrial conditions in faraway places, travels thousands of kilometres before it reaches our plates. We can conservatively estimate that the transportation of food accounts for a quarter of global GHG emissions linked to transportation, or 5-6% of all global GHG emissions.