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Report Finds True Cost of Food in 2019 Was $2.1 Trillion in Adverse Health, Environmental, and Other Effects

The Rockefeller Foundation has just published a reportTrue Cost of Food: Measuring What Matters to Transform the U.S. Food System, which identifies the real-but-under-recognized downsides of the U.S. food system. The report notes that, for all its reputed bounty, the food system “comes with hidden costs — to our health, to our climate,” and to the many people who make sure that food reaches the population. The report calls for a true accounting of the costs of food in the U.S.

Beyond Pesticides welcomes the broad framework of the report, but notes that a true accounting would necessarily include the costs of the externalities of conventional agriculture, including those related to pesticides: the costs of pollution and its cleanup (when that even happens), of lost pollination and biodiversity, of lost productivity from illness, and of health care costs related to pesticide use. Remarkably, for all its repetition of deleterious impacts on climate, biodiversity, and health, the report barely mentions either pesticides’ roles in causing such impacts, or the clear solution to so many of the negatives in the food system — organic, regenerative agriculture.

The report’s economic analysis applies a true cost accounting (TCA) framework to assessing the real costs and impacts of the current system. It asserts, “Our food system is failing us, and too few people understand the true cost of the food we consume, and lack clear incentives to change a system that is costing us dearly. That’s why accounting for the true cost of the food we eat is the first, necessary step towards remaking the incentive structure that drives our food system today.”