Planet vs. Plastics: A tough challenge

©FAO/Nozim Kalandarov


Over the last 70 years, the use of plastics in agrifood systems and food value chains has become increasingly widespread. From fishing gear and tree guards to greenhouses, plastics can increase productivity and efficiency in agriculture and help curb food loss and waste, and yet are a major source of contamination.  

As “Planet vs. Plastics” is the theme chosen to mark this year’s Earth Day and raise awareness on the health risks connected to plastics, we invite you to have a look at this selection of FAO reports shedding light on the many implications of their use.  

Assessment of agricultural plastics and their sustainability: A call for action 
This report presents the results of a study on agricultural plastic products used globally in a range of different value chains. The study assessed the types and quantities of plastic products, their benefits and the trade-offs. 

Microplastics in food commodities – A food safety review on human exposure through dietary sources 
As well as being highly damaging to the environment, microplastics enter our bodies through the food we eat. Among the many reported consequences are oxidative stress and immunotoxicity. This document assesses exposure and provides information on possible biological effects. 

The impact of microplastics on the gut microbiome and health – A food safety perspective 
Microplastics are environmental pollutants that are widely present and can accumulate in organisms across the food web. This review sheds light on the effects of microplastics on the gut microbiome and the potential health implications thereof. It also highlights research gaps, including the need for standardized definitions and reference materials. 

Microplastics in fisheries and aquaculture: status of knowledge on their occurrence and implications for aquatic organisms and food safety 
An overview of the occurrence and effects of microplastics on aquatic organisms, with recommendations regarding seafood safety and security, environmental risk assessment approaches and targeted monitoring of microplastics in the environment. 

Global assessment of soil pollution: Report 
World soil health is under pressure from erosion, loss of soil organic carbon and biodiversity, pollution, and salinization. This report presents the status and drivers of global soil pollution, including plastics, as well as recommendations to address the issue such as using bioremediation technologies.


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