What would be the socio-economic consequences of an ecological transition of the French food system by 2050? Under what conditions and to what extent can this transition be job-creating, fair and beneficial in terms of nutrition and health?

These are the questions that Basic and Iddri have been investigating since 2018. The main results were presented on March 24, 2021, in the presence of MEP Pascal Canfin, Director of Agricultural Cooperation Florence Pradier and CEO of the National Research Institute on Agriculture and Environment Philippe Mauguin.

Based on the decarbonization pathway of the agricultural sector defined by the French government in its National Low-Carbon Strategy, IDDRI and Basic have developed two scenarios of food system transition, both aiming at the same decarbonization objectives, via two contrasting trajectories in terms of socio-political dynamics and economic strategies of private actors.

Comparing these two scenarios enables to assess their quantitative implications (in terms of employment and income) and to identify the socio-political conditions for a fair transition:

  • A scenario centered on climate issues, without calling into question the logic of concentration/specialization of agrifood production would lead to significant negative socio-economic impacts: acceleration of the disappearance of farms and associated jobs (-9% in arable crops and milk sectors compared to ‘Business as Usual’ trends), loss of industrial jobs (-12% in the same sectors compared to 2015), without substantially improving the quality of food nor biodiversity.
  • A scenario that embraces the multiple challenges of our current food system (climate, biodiversity, health, employment) could generate multiple benefits: protection of agricultural employment (+ 10% in arable crops and milk sectors compared to ‘Business as Usual’ trends) without loss of income; increase in industrial employment (+ 8% in the same sectors compared to 2015); positive contribution to the restoration of agrobiodiversity and to the achievement of public nutritional recommendations.

In political terms, the economic viability of the second scenario relies on a simultaneous evolution of supply, demand and the regulation of markets, involving significant changes:

  • a proactive approach to demand at the national level, going against the current political reluctance to act, mobilizing a wide range of tools to enable consumers to make the healthiest and most sustainable choices;
  • a convergence of visions between Member States of the European Union, so that the national strategic plans – within the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy – set comparable objectives and requirements to all European farmers;
  • an ambitious approach to regulate international trade so as to promote and support the adoption of ambitious production standards.

To consolidate these initial results, it is necessary to complement the current analysis conducted on arable crops and milk sectors and extend it to all agricultural sectors and countries of the European Union. A task that Iddri and Basic have started to tackle with other partners (Solagro, I4CE), with the aim of publishing new results in 2022.


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