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Global nutrient equity for people and the planet

Abstract

The industrial world has converted inert soil and atmospheric nutrients into reactive fertilizer flows that endanger water quality, biodiversity and climate. Simultaneously, poor nations starve because of the shortage of these nutrients in agricultural soils. Here we propose a redistribution of accumulated nutrients to enhance food security while counteracting the current degradation of critical Earth system processes. Residue and sediment nutrients could be processed and transported to food-insecure regions through the opposite logistics used to ship rock phosphate across the globe. Financing through trading accumulated rights could trigger the required innovations in processing, logistics and thinking. Such a socially just ‘one Earth currency’ could leverage a transformation towards resilience, equity and dignity across the critical Earth system processes.

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Fig. 1: Inequity creates wastage and instability.
Fig. 2: Redistribution of nutrients for food security and resilience.
Fig. 3: Synergetic sustainability in the use of nutrients as a global commons.
Fig. 4: Trading fair nutrient rights.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A. Törmälä for creating the artwork.

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Correspondence to Helena Kahiluoto.

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Peer review information Nature Food thanks Will Brownlie, Zdravka Tzankova and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Kahiluoto, H., Pickett, K.E. & Steffen, W. Global nutrient equity for people and the planet. Nat Food 2, 857–861 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00391-w

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