Articulating the effect of food systems innovation on the Sustainable Development Goals

Elsevier, Lancet Planetary Health, Volume 5, Issue 1, January 2021, Pages e50–e62.
Mario Herrero, Philip K Thornton, Daniel Mason-D’Croz, Jeda Palmer, Benjamin L Bodirsky, Prajal Pradhan, Christopher B Barrett, Tim G Benton, Andrew HallIlje Pikaar, Jessica R Bogard, Graham D Bonnett, Brett A Bryan, Bruce M Campbell, Svend Christensen, Michael Clark, Jessica Fanzo, Cecile M Godde, Andy Jarvis, Ana Maria Loboguerrero, Alexander Mathys, C Lynne McIntyre, Rosamond L Naylor, Rebecca Nelson, Michael Obersteiner, Alejandro Parodi, Alexander Popp, Katie Ricketts, Pete Smith, Hugo Valin, Sonja J Vermeulen, Joost Vervoort, Mark van Wijk, Hannah HE van Zanten, Paul C West, Stephen A Wood, Johan Rockström

Food  system  innovations  will  be  instrumental  to  achieving  multiple  Sustainable  Development  Goals  (SDGs).  However, major innovation breakthroughs can trigger profound and disruptive changes, leading to simultaneous and interlinked reconfigurations of multiple parts of the global food system. The emergence of new technologies or social solutions, therefore, have very different impact profiles, with favourable consequences for some SDGs and unintended adverse side-effects for others. Stand-alone innovations seldom achieve positive outcomes over multiple sustainability dimensions.  Instead,  they  should  be  embedded  as  part  of  systemic  changes  that  facilitate  the  implementation  of  the  SDGs. Emerging  trade-offs  need  to  be  intentionally  addressed  to  achieve  true  sustainability,  particularly  those  involving  social  aspects  like  inequality  in  its  many  forms,  social  justice,  and  strong  institutions,  which  remain  challenging.  Trade-offs  with  undesirable  consequences  are  manageable  through  the  development  of  well  planned  transition  pathways,  careful  monitoring  of  key  indicators,  and  through  the  implementation  of  transparent  science  targets at the local level.