Options for reforming agricultural subsidies from health, climate, and economic perspectives

26 October 2021

Nature Communications

M. Springmann & F. Freund

View Journal Article / Working Paper

Agricultural subsidies are an important factor for influencing food production and therefore part of a food system that is seen as neither healthy nor sustainable. Here we analyse options for reforming agricultural subsidies in line with health and climate-change objectives on one side, and economic objectives on the other. Using an integrated modelling framework including economic, environmental, and health assessments, we find that on a global scale several reform options could lead to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and improvements in population health without reductions in economic welfare. Those include a repurposing of up to half of agricultural subsidies to support the production of foods with beneficial health and environmental characteristics, including fruits, vegetables, and other horticultural products, and combining such repurposing with a more equal distribution of subsidy payments globally. The findings suggest that reforming agricultural subsidy schemes based on health and climate-change objectives can be economically feasible and contribute to transitions towards healthy and sustainable food systems.