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The Right to Food and the Planetary Boundaries framework

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The 'Right to Food' is a legal entitlement owed to all human beings established in international law more than half a century ago. Fulfilment of the right has been entrusted to states parties to the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). However, in practice, the right is often breached because of hostility or indifference from individuals or institutions refusing access to provisions, or because of vicissitudes of nature. Adverse impacts due to human interference in natural processes are increasingly noticeable in the area of food production. These processes have been classified into nine distinct categories, all of which need be kept within certain margins, so-called 'Planetary Boundaries', which delineate a safe operating space for humanity. This paper discusses the impact each of these human-induced developments has on the provision of food as well as the other way round and what the consequences would be if the boundaries were exceeded. Yet there are means of keeping the worst consequences of most of these processes at bay. The paper explores some of these.
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Keywords: BIODIVERSITY LOSS; CHEMICAL POLLUTION; CLIMATE CHANGE; FRESH WATER; HUMAN RIGHTS; ICESCR; LAND-USE CHANGE; OCEAN ACIDIFICATION; OZONE LEVEL; SOIL HEALTH

Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: 01 March 2017

This article was made available online on 06 March 2017 as a Fast Track article with title: "The Right to Food and the Planetary Boundaries framework".

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  • SCIENCE PROGRESS has for over 100 years been a highly regarded review publication in science, technology and medicine. Its objective is to excite the readers' interest in areas with which they may not be fully familiar but which could facilitate their interest, or even activity, in a cognate field. Science Progress commissions world authorities to contribute articles on the most interesting, important and meaningful topics - ranging from cosmology to the environment - and ensures that they are presented for the most effective use of those in both academia and industry.

    Truly, Science Progress publishes an eclectic mix of articles that no library can afford to be without.

    Cover image: Plastic debris washed-up on a river bank. The manufacture and use of different types of plastic, and the effects of pollution by these materials are discussed in the article on pages 207–260. Credit: By igorstevanovic/Shutterstock.com.

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