Comprendre les enjeux de l'agriculture

Climate change, consumption patterns, new food sources, urban agriculture, and biotechnologies are all elements to consider in future strategies for restructuring food systems. The goal of countries is to meet the SDGs – Sustainable Development Goals – especially those related to ensuring access to healthy and sufficient food for the global population. To achieve this, the FAO – United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization – has defined four pillars: production, nutrition, environment, and quality of life. The agri-food industry must reinvent itself, be able to anticipate trends or risks, and demonstrate resilience.

The FAO report “Thinking about the future of food safety [1], a foresight report, presents the levers and opportunities to consider in future food security policies. While not exhaustive, this publication describes emerging areas and their potential effects on food security. There are less than ten years left to achieve the 2030 Agenda and transform the food system to produce and distribute enough food to feed the estimated 9.7 billion inhabitants by 2050.

Climate Change

Human activity has altered the atmosphere, oceans, fauna, and flora. Climate events are now on a larger scale and difficult to reverse due to their intensity. Rising sea levels, melting glaciers, heatwaves, droughts, fires, hurricanes, and floods… the effects of climate change impact 80% of the land and 85% of the global population (Callaghan et al., 2021 [2]). Reducing these effects requires adopting activities with lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In 2021, around a hundred countries participating in the UN Climate Change conference committed to reducing methane emissions, a gas that releases more heat into the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

In terms of food security, all links in the chain are affected: production, agricultural yields, and supply, resulting in soil depletion, ocean acidification, changes in food composition, and potential health impacts. The global food system relies on accelerating international flows that spread risks faster, similar to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Different Way of Consuming

Consumers who can afford to consider environmental or nutritional criteria in their purchases: they are sensitive to animal welfare, transportation, and waste. The food industry responds with complementary labeling that promotes virtuous supply chains (responsible sourcing), nutritional quality, or highlights its low carbon footprint.

Plant-based options have gained preference among consumers in recent years, to the point that manufacturers innovate in alternatives to meat or milk. New food items are also introduced, such as algae or insects. High-income consumers seek personalized nutritional options. Manufacturers exploit data, technology, and nutritional knowledge to offer food according to specific diets. Nutrigenomics, for example, indicates to consumers which foods to prioritize based on genetic profiles or health considerations (obesity, diabetes, cancer…) or lifestyle. Increasing healthcare costs and health concerns foster recognizing food as a vector of health and well-being.

New Foods and Productions

In 2009, the FAO estimated that global production needed to increase by 70% to meet the needs of a population estimated at 9.7 billion individuals by 2050. The challenge lies in the need to increase productivity while limiting the environmental impact of the agri-food sector. This sector currently generates 34% of GHG emissions and consumes a significant portion of natural resources. The sector must also cope with climate change, which is already altering growth rates and food quality. Studies show that this climate change primarily affects countries facing high levels of food insecurity.

Edible Insects – Nutritious but Risky

Consuming insects is not new, but it was traditionally limited to local gastronomic traditions without industrialized chains. Today, industries propose using insects as a favored ingredient in processed products. Although a source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, edible insects do not have a favorable reputation among Western consumers. For consuming communities, insects are free and accessible resources collected from nature. For industries, insects are more suitable as feed protein for livestock rather than for direct consumption. There is limited data on insect life cycles, covering only a few species. The arguments for insect farming include economy in terms of space and resources, as well as the low GHG emissions generated by the activity. Commercially marketable insect species include black soldier flies, yellow mealworms, crickets, and grasshoppers. However, these edible insects present risks described in the Edible Insect report, stemming from diseases carried by insects themselves, their feed for growth, and practices related to farming, storage, and transportation. Similar to cultivated plant varieties, a single species concentrated in one place facilitates disease propagation.

Jellyfish – A Regulating Consumption

These marine invertebrates are found in large quantities in oceans regardless of temperature and depth. Without scientific evidence, it seems that the jellyfish population increases over the years or even appears for the first time in certain marine spaces. Climate change and acidification could explain their expansion. In impacted zones, plankton increases as predators like turtles or tunas disappear. Coastal developments also create new habitats: oil platforms, breakwaters, wind turbines, etc. Jellyfish can be harmful in some areas; they obstruct fishermen’s nets, disrupt fish farming, and block the pipes of power plants or desalination plants.

Creating a consumable industry could solve food shortages and limit the harmful effects of these populations on marine life. Jellyfish are already consumed in Asia (Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, and Thailand) for their nutritional value; they are rich in protein and minerals and low in carbohydrates and lipids. However, some species can be toxic to humans.

In general, consuming jellyfish is possible for humans, albeit with microbiological and chemical risks. The primary risk is due to their fragile storage outside their habitat, otherwise they do not pose a pathogenic risk. Studies (Bleve et al., 2019 [3]) have exceptionally demonstrated the presence of staphylococci on a group of jellyfish collected in a specific environment.

The second risk is chemical, induced by the accumulation of pollutants in the marine ecosystem. Jellyfish absorb and retain various types of pollutants: heavy metals, algal toxins, allergens. Studies show that people allergic to shellfish can consume jellyfish; however, people stung by jellyfish can have an allergic reaction.

Plant-Based Substitutes Without Sacrificing Flavor

Due to religious beliefs, environmental concerns, or animal protection actions, some of the population is shifting toward specific diets. The number of consumers exclusively focused on fruits, vegetables, seeds, and legumes is increasing, but they still seek new flavors and textures. Sales of plant-based substitutes (meats and beverages) are projected to reach $162 billion by 2030, compared to $29.4 billion in 2020.

The dangers of this food source are primarily microbiological, with a risk of contamination due to pathogens present in plants: bacteria, microorganisms, viruses. Plant proteins do not tolerate the temperatures that animal-based products endure to ensure safety, which alters their taste. There is also a chemical risk; mycotoxins are present in basic products such as grains, nuts, and legumes that are used in making substitutes. Moreover, studies have identified the presence of phytoestrogens (isoflavones, lignans, coumestans) that can be found in finished products and affect the endocrine system (Thompson et al., 2006 [4]).

Marine Algae – Nutritious and Sustainable

Brown, red, or green algae are already used for nutritional purposes as well as in cosmetic and pharmaceutical sectors. Their health benefits and versatility secure their place in new food offerings. They contain minerals, vitamins, fiber, protein, and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

Well-known in Asia for their anti-inflammatory, probiotic, and antioxidant properties, they are used, for example, as vermifuges or to compensate for iodine deficiencies. Marine algae are interesting feed ingredients for ruminants and reduce methane emissions. They grow rapidly, require no fertilizers, and do not occupy agricultural land. They largely fulfill the expectations described in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Microbiological risk is present as algae can be consumed raw or remain sensitive to the processing process. When cultivated in aquaculture farms, special attention must be paid to the immediate environment: polluting sources, wild animals… They also serve as reservoirs for heavy metals originating from mining or petrochemical activities. Like terrestrial plants, they can accumulate marine toxins.

Cultured Cells – Unknown Risks

Between the desire to reduce meat production and increasing demand, there is an opportunity for cellular production. It could cultivate animal cells without breeding, slaughter, or waste.

Through in vitro culture, animal cells can be multiplied and transformed as needed. Only the desirable parts of the animal would be developed.

Innovation carries risks and consumer resistance.

Cells come from living or slaughtered animals, with risks of:

• Zoonoses, which decrease when scientists use stem cells;

• Traces of antibiotics.

Bovine serum is the most common component of the growth medium, but it increases the risk of contamination. Alternative formulations are being developed. The supporting architectures for cell growth are biomaterials like chitin or chitosan, which can cause allergies in people intolerant to crustaceans and seafood.

Cell multiplication itself carries risks of genetic mutation, and obtained cells must be stabilized in a cryoprotective solution like sorbitol.


Each new food or food component presents a specific risk, linked to its intrinsic characteristics, environment, or utilization.

Tomorrow, its production will no longer be exclusively in rural areas but in urban spaces. Urban agriculture must find a working model that preserves crops from pollution, allows for constrained space exploitation, and has a viable economic balance.

Africa and Asia are the two continents experiencing the highest urbanization in the coming years. Urban food systems will play a significant role in food security strategies. Production proximity is a primary guarantee.

Urban farms breathe new life into abandoned spaces, limit GHG emissions due to transportation, create economic and social activity, contribute to food education, and provide refreshing green spaces.


Source : FAO

[1] Thinking about the future of food safety A foresight report:

[2] Callaghan, M., Schleussner, C., Nath, S., Lejeune, Q., Knutson, T.R., Reichstein, M., Hansen, G. et al. 2021. Machine-learning-based evidence and attribution mapping of 100,000 climate impact studies. Nature Climate Change, 11(11): 966–972. (Article cite dans le rapport de la FAO cité ci-dessus)

[3] Bleve, G., Ramires, F.A., Gallo, A. & Leone, A. 2019. Identification of safety and quality parameters for

preparation of jellyfish based novel food products. Foods, 8: 263. (Article cite dans le rapport de la FAO cité ci-dessus)

[4] Thompson, L.U., Boucher, B.A., Liu, Z., Cotterchio, M.& Kreiger, N. 2006. Phytoestrogen content of foods

consumed in Canada, including isoflavones, lignans, and coumestan. Nutrition and Cancer, 54(2): 184–201.

doi: 10.1207/s15327914nc5402_5