Mitigating Sustainability Tradeoffs as Global Fruit and Vegetable Systems Expand to Meet Dietary Recommendations

Stratton AE, Finley JW, Gustafson DI et al.
Environmental Research Letters
May 4, 2021


Recent analyses indicate that global fruit and vegetable (F&V) production will need to increase by 50-150% by 2050 in order to achieve sustainable and healthy diets for 10 billion people. Although the global volume of F&V has grown by 50% during the last two decades alone, simply scaling up current systems of F&V production, supply chains, and consumption will inevitably worsen environmental and socioeconomic tradeoffs. This article examines three examples of important F&V—avocados, leafy greens, and tomatoes—to assess the global challenge of meeting dietary recommendations at affordable prices to consumers while sustaining producer livelihoods and minimizing environmental damage. These three cases highlight key characteristics of F&V systems that make the challenge of sustainable expansion especially difficult: knowledge-, input-, and labor-intensive production, high rates of food loss and waste, and low affordability to consumers relative to less nutrient-dense food groups. Our analysis shows that only by investing in innovations that increase diversity, integrate technology, and improve equity will truly sustainable expansion of F&V systems be possible.

This publication counts Dr. Dave Gustafson, who works on behalf of the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute on the Fruit & Vegetable Supply Chains: Climate Adaptation & Mitigation Opportunities project, as one of the co-authors. AFSI also co-sponsored the workshop that led to this publication, which was organized by the Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI) and Keystone Policy Center.