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Copenhagen Consensus Center

Food Security: What's the smartest SDG target?

One-quarter of all food in the world is lost each year, from harvesting and storage to wastage in the consumer’s kitchen. Halve that, and we could feed an extra billion people.

Fortunately, new analyses show that there are smart ways to reduce the developing world’s substantial food waste. Interestingly, these solutions have little to do with rich world food waste campaigns or policies like Seattle’s law forbidding citizens to throw food into their trash bins.

In the developing world, it is not consumers that cause the waste, but the losses at harvest and post-harvest. The solution is building reliable road, rail and electrical infrastructure, which means better market access, allowing more investment in e.g. refrigeration.

As reported by Reuters around the world, this will cost $240B over the next 15 years but reduce the number of hungry people by 57m, and avoid malnourishment of 4m children. This generates $13 of benefits per dollar spent – a very good return.

But it turns out there is an even better food target: an extra $88 billion in agricultural research and development over the next 15 years will increase yield growth by an additional 0.4% each year. For each dollar spent, this will achieve $34 of social benefits. It will save 79m people from hunger and avoid 5m children being malnourished.

You can read all the papers here and download the one page PDF here.

The smartest targets for the post-2015 development agenda

What are the smartest targets for the post-2015 development agenda?

In a world of limited resources, we can’t do everything, but how should we prioritize? The Copenhagen Consensus Center provides information on which targets will do the most social good relative to their costs. The final decision on choosing goals will definitely rest on a number of factors, not just economics – but knowing the costs and benefits provides an important piece of information.

The Post-2015 Consensus brought together, renowned experts from the UN, NGO and private sectors with 60 teams of economists to produced 100+ research papers to establish the most effective targets for the post-2015 development agenda within 22 core issue areas: Air Pollution, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Conflict & Violence, Data for Development, Education, Energy, Food Security, Gender Equality, Governance & Institutions, Health: Chronic Diseases, Health: Health Systems, Health: Infant Mortality & Maternal Health, Health: Infectious Diseases, Infrastructure, Illicit Financial Flows, Nutrition, Population & Demography, Poverty, Science & Technology, Trade, and Water & Sanitation

An Expert Panel including two Nobel Laureates has reviewed all of this research and identified 19 targets that represent the best value-for-money in development over the period 2016 to 2030.

Only have three minutes? Watch our introduction video to the Post-2015 Consensus project.


Making prioritization a factor in the post-2015 debate

An overview of Copenhagen Consensus' ground-breaking research which is shaping the thinking for the 193 governments about to prioritize the smartest development goals for 2016-2030. If you've just read the article in The Economist you might be interested in exploring more about our project, and the research we've undertaken so we have put together an online supplement with more in-depth information.