edited by Institut de l’économie circulaire, Parigi www.institut-economie-circulaire.fr
21st century agricultural and agri-food systems are facing unprecedented challenges. The planet’s 7.5 billion inhabitants must be fed, with a need for better food quality at affordable prices, and the difficulty of supplying growing cities. Bio-based products are also needed for a more sustainable supply of other uses, including energy or raw materials. At the same time, natural resources essential to production grow scarce: water supplies are over-used or polluted and agricultural lands are declining in both availability and quality. Production is also impacted by global warming, and the sector must reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions.
How can we aim for a food and non-food production which meets our needs in quantity and quality while preserving and regenerating natural eco-systems? The circular economy is a lever to address these issues in a comprehensive approach. With this in mind, the Institut de l’économie circulaire launched a multi-stakeholder working group in 2017, which has identified 3 priority areas.
- Defining circular economy as applied to the agricultural and agri-food sectors, identifying best practices and working together to advance knowledge and implementation both on government and industry level.
- Increasing the return of organic material to soil to maintain its quality and biodiversity, identifying every player along the value chain to channel bio-waste flows.
- Developing territorial approaches to advance synergies, both within the agricultural and agri-food sectors and with other sectors, and to rethink the supply sources of urban areas. This implies identifying the right scales of action.
On a national level, the timing is right to push the circular economy agenda forward in the agricultural and agri-food sector.
In early 2017, the Ministry for Agriculture presented a Bioeconomy Strategy for France, with aims to “guarantee food security and sustainable living standards for current and future generations by preserving natural resources and the ecosystemic functions of habitats” and to “be efficient, resilient, circular and productive over the long term,” through innovation and local development. Biomass and soil are two of the three priority sectors addressed in the wider Resource Programming Plan produced by the Ministry of Environment in May.
More recently, agriculture was an important part of the 3rd National Conference of Circular Economy held in Paris and opened by the Minister of Environment. Finally, in July, the government will hold the States General of Food, which should include a workshop on bioeconomy and circular economy. A €5 billion investment plan will then be launched, which we can only hope will feed the transition to a circular economy.
States General of Food, www.economie.gouv.fr/etats-generaux-alimentation-20-juillet-2017