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Two-thirds of Gen Z believe current food systems are ‘destroying the planet’: survey

December 1, 2021

Four-fifths of young people in Generation Z think that we urgently need to make food production and consumption more sustainable – while two-thirds believe that our existing agrifood systems are “destroying the planet,” recent survey findings suggest.

The research was commissioned by EIT Food, the EU’s agrifood innovation agency, and involved a survey of slightly over 2,000 members of Gen Z — that is, 18 to 24-year olds — in France, Germany, Poland, Spain, and the UK.

According to a summary of the findings from EIT Food:

  • 78% of respondents agreed with the sentiment that society needs to take “urgent action to make the ways in which we produce and consume food more sustainable.”
  • 66% said that extant systems of food production and consumption are “destroying the planet, and that the situation is only getting worse.”
  • 61% said the agrifood industries have “become less sustainable in recent years.”

Furthermore, 64% of Gen Z respondents said that the sustainability credentials of the food they eat have become more important to them in the past 12 months; while 65% said they believe that their age group “cares more” about food sustainability issues than older generations.

When it comes to the perceived sustainability of different aspects of the agrifood value chain, 74% of Gen Z respondents agreed that “fruit and vegetable farming” and “locally-grown food” are among the more sustainable modes of food production and consumption, followed by “organic farming” (72%) and “plant-based foods” (70%).

On the other hand, 50% of respondents indicated that they believe the importing of food from other countries is generally unsustainable.

EIT Food has published the survey results as part of its unveiling of ‘The Menu for Change‘ – a new “manifesto” aimed at enhancing sustainability and human health in agrifood systems.

The Menu has been devised by EIT Food along with its ‘FutureFoodMakers‘ – 10 young thought leaders from across Europe who have been selected by the agency “to ensure that the voices of [Gen Z] are heard by the stakeholders in the food system.”

First-ever Food Systems Summit sees billions in pledges and plenty of disagreements – read more here

Outlined within the manifesto are several calls to action aimed at these stakeholders. These include a target for 25% of the EU’s agricultural land to be managed under regenerative practices by 2030 and the creation of an EU-wide “true cost of food” policy, among others.

“The Menu for Change puts forward our views on how the agrifood decision makers of today should be working to secure our food, our food system, and our future,” Júlia Montoliu Boneu, a nutritionist and FutureFoodMaker based in Madrid, said in a statement.

“Transitioning to a better, more resilient European food system requires urgent change and innovation across the food value chain – from farmers, manufacturers, and retailers, to governments, NGOs, and consumers. As we use these recommendations to drive conversations with stakeholders across the agrifood sector, we must ensure no one is left behind and everyone’s voice is heard.”

EIT Food CEO Andy Zynga added: “In a crucial year for global climate talks, we need the next generation, who will be most affected by the climate crisis, to have a seat at the table in shaping a future-fit food system. We know that the world cannot achieve its goal of limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees [Celsius] without addressing global food systems, yet food could have been more prominent on the agenda at COP26. That is why [EIT Food has] brought together 10 young FutureFoodMakers to represent young people across Europe, and make their views, needs and recommendations known.”

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