Eliminating waste and improving health through circular economy principles could boost the global economy by a massive $2.7trn (£2trn) every year.
That is according to a new report published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which said that industrial food production practices, such as excessive use of antibiotics in livestock, could lead to five million deaths annually by 2050.
That is four times the number of deaths caused by road traffic crashes each year, while food production is also currently responsible for almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions globally.
But a “circular economy redesign” could massively cut the environmental and health costs, ensuring food is grown without harmful practices, and waste eliminated through better redistribution and by-product use.
“The way we produce food today is not only extremely wasteful and damaging to the environment, it is causing serious health problems,” Ellen MacArthur, said. “We urgently need to redesign the system.”
Under the proposed model, health costs caused by pesticide use would decrease by $550bn a year, while antimicrobial resistance, air pollution, water contamination and food-borne diseases would reduce significantly.
Greenhouse emissions would be expected to decrease by approximately 4.3 gigatonnes of CO2, the equivalent of taking one billion cars off the road permanently.
Moreover, it is estimated that circular economy principles could prevent the degradation of 15 million hectares of arable land, and save 450 trillion litres of fresh water every year.
However, the report states that cities will hold the key to this food revolution, forecasting that they will consume around 80% of all food around the world by 2050.
It predicts that cities could unlock $700bn a year by using organic material to help produce new food and products, and by reducing edible waste.
“People around the world need food that is nutritious, and that is grown, produced and delivered in a way that benefits their health, the environment and the economy,” MacArthur added.