A significant amount of global funding for agriculture causes more harm to public health than good, Olive Oil Times reported on 20 September from a United Nations (UN) report.

The funding harmed public health, degraded the environment, distorted food prices and was highly inefficient, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, which also said the funds were also often inequitable, favouring large agribusiness over small farmers.

According to the report, 87% of total US$540bn (€457bn) global public funding was doing more harm than good, with those global funds representing 15% of total agricultural production value.

Of that total, about US$294bn (€249bn) was provided in the form of price incentives and around US$245bn (€207bn) for fiscal subsidies to farmers, the report said. Meanwhile, 70% had been tied to the production of a specific commodity.

“Only US$110bn (€93bn) was used to fund transfers to the agriculture sector collectively, in the form of general services or public goods,” the report said.

The FAO, the UN Development Program and the UN Environment Program stressed that the report did not ask for public funding to stop, but to change.

Researchers believed that if correctly devised and deployed, public funding to agriculture could “contribute to the end of poverty, overcome hunger and achieve food security while improving nutrition, promoting sustainable agriculture, consumption and production, mitigate the climate crisis, restore nature, limit pollution and reduce inequalities.”

UN projections showed that under current policies the global public funding to agriculture would top US$1.8 trillion (€1.5tn) by 2030, which they argued would also cause further damage unless a clear path to reform was set.

“About 73% of that, US$1.3tn (€1.1tn) would be in the form of border measures, which affect trade and domestic market prices,” the report said. “The remaining 27%, US$475bn (€402bn), would be in the form of fiscal subsidies that support agricultural producers and could continue to promote overuse of inputs and overproduction.”

The report also pointed out that malnourishment still affected 9.9% of the global population with more than 720M people in the world facing hunger and 2.37bn people – about one third of the global population – without access to adequate food in 2020.

Additionally, the report cited the findings of the 2020 Living Planet Report, produced by the World Wildlife Fund, which showed that “the conversion of land to agriculture had led to 70% of global biodiversity loss and half of all tree cover loss”.

The goal of the UN report was to lobby for new agricultural funding policies throughout the world, Olive Oil Times wrote.