Agriculture & Food


© Matthias Ripp – Agriculture

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Ecosystems and agricultural & food systems are typically evaluated in isolation from one another, despite their many and significant links. The economic invisibility of many of these links is a major reason for this ‘silo’ thinking. However, ecosystems are the ecological home in which crop and livestock systems thrive and produce food for humans, and in turn agricultural practices, food production, distribution and consumption impose several unquantified externalities on ecosystems and human health and well-being.

A ‘TEEB for Agriculture & Food’ (TEEBAgFood) study, led by the UNEP TEEB Office, will seek to bring together economists, business leaders, agriculturalists and experts in biodiversity and ecosystems to provide a comprehensive economic evaluation of the ‘eco-agri-food systems’ complex, and demonstrate that the economic environment in which farmers operate is distorted by significant externalities, both negative and positive, and a lack of awareness of dependency on natural capital. A “double-whammy” of economic invisibility of impacts from both ecosystems and agricultural/food systems is a root cause of increased fragility and lower resilience to shocks in both ecological and human systems.

Relevant materials

» Interim Report (forthcoming, December 2015)
» Towards TEEBAgFood (May 2015)
» Info Brochure (May 2015)
» Concept note (February 2014)

Relevant meetings & events

» Global Landscape Forum 2015 (Paris 5-6 Dec. 2015)
» Expert Workshop (Brussels 8-11 Sep. 2015)
» GA Future of Food Int. Dialogue (18-19 May 2015)
» NY Times Food For Tomorrow (11-12 Nov. 2014)
» Agro-ecology Symposium (18-19 Sep. 2014)
» TEEBAgFood Scoping workshop (22-23 Jan. 2014)



Feeder Studies

A number of studies have been commissioned by UNEP TEEB in order to assess some of the major “externalities-heavy” agricultural sectors, including:

» Livestock: Wageningen University / Trucost & True Price
» Palm Oil: Trucost / True Price & RSPO
» Inland Fisheries: FAO 
» Agro-forestry: World Agroforestry Centre / UNEP-WCMC
» Rice: FAO / Bioversity / IRRI Trucost
» Maize: CONABIO

Currently underway, these studies are set to be published later this year when the key findings will be presented in an Interim Report in December 2015.

The objective of these feeder studies, inter alia, is to build evidence to identify policy options to facilitate a transition towards more sustainable agricultural practices. More particularly, this project seeks to improve the understanding among policymakers and key stakeholders about the economic dependencies and interactions between each sector and ecosystem services & biodiversity, and their value to society. This understanding will make it possible to assess the economic tradeoffs between short-term productivity gains on the one hand and longer-term ecosystem impacts (which in turn might decrease agri-productivity in the future), and to design incentive mechanisms to facilitate greener and more sustainable outcomes.


Study framework

This study will seek to review the economic interdependencies outlined in the diagram below, mainly between human (economic and social) system’, agriculture and food systems, and biodiversity and ecosystems. In doing so, it will address the economic invisibility of many of these links while exploring how biodiversity and key ecosystem services deliver benefits to the agriculture sector and also beyond, itself being a key contributor to human health, livelihoods and well-being.


Project Components

In order to produce impetus for the project overall, an ‘Interim Report’ will first set out to provide new and compelling (but balanced and science-based) evidence from a global meta-analysis as well as a number of studies on externalities-heavy agricultural sectors, including livestock, rice and palm oil.

A ‘Scientific and Economic Foundations’ report will address the core theoretical issues and controversies underpinning the evaluation of the nexus between the agri-food sector, biodiversity and ecosystem services and externalities from agriculture on a global scale. In essence it seeks to set the theoretical context for the evaluation of policy implementation.

A ‘Policies, Production and Consumption’ report will by definition focus on the evaluation of different agro-ecological production systems and policies in different socio-economic contexts. Since TEEBAgFood concerns not only agriculture but entire food systems as well, the report will also consider food policies, including those targeting food waste and food safety along the entire food chain, from production to final disposal, as well as food quality in nutritional terms.

Finally, a Synthesis Report is to have clearly articulated key messages and recommendations arising from the findings of the core reports, written with a broad readership in mind. It will be supported by an extensive communications strategy.


TEEBAgFood Steering Committee

The TEEBAgFood Steering Committee is the second highest decision making authority, dealing solely with project related issues for TEEBAgFood. Members are largely responsible for the more substantive elements of work, including for instance peer review of draft outputs, nominations of/suggestions for the contracting of experts and contributors and technical guidance. [read more]


Opportunities for Involvement

» Peer review

If you are interested in becoming a peer reviewer for any forthcoming inputs, please write an e-mail to with “Peer Review” in the subject line and Curriculum Vitae attached .


» Communications and Outreach

If your organization is involved in public and social outreach for any of the wide range of issues related to this project, and you are interested in helping us increase its visibility and reach, please send an e-mail to with “Communications” in the subject line.


» Fundraising

We are still actively seeking funding for future project activities. If your organization is interested in becoming a donor or receiving a project proposal from us, please write an e-mail to  with “Fundraising” in the subject line.


TEEB is hosted by the UNEP and «TEEB for Agriculture & Food» is supported by the European Commission and the Global Alliance for the Future of Food.

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To contact TEEBAgFood team, please write to 

Latest Publications

Towards TEEBAgFood

The Way Forward. Towards a Global Study on the Economics of Eco-Agri-Food Systems.  TEEB is bringing together economists, business leaders, agriculturalists and experts in biodiversity and ecosystem services to systematically review the economic interdependencies between agriculture and natural ecosystems, and provide a…

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TEEB Challenges and Responses

TEEB ‘s progress, challenges and responses towards mainstreaming the economics of nature. [ENG] [ESP]

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TEEB for Agriculture & Food Concept Note

February 2014- The Concept Note presents the case for and proposed outline content of a TEEB for Agriculture & Food study.

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Natural Capital Accounting and Water Quality: Commitments, Benefits, Needs and Progress

December 2013 – The briefing note outlines existing guidance and examples on water quality accounting and identifies the ongoing challenges related to the development of natural capital accounting and water quality accounting. Inspired by the growing global focus on natural capital accounting, the note identifies the ongoing challenges related to the development of natural capital accounting and water quality accounting, in order to encourage debate and commitment towards effective water and biodiversity policy.

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The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity – Valuation Database Manual

December 2013 – The Manual presents an overview and explains the potential uses and functions of the TEEB Valuation Database. The Manual discusses the origin of the database; describes its content and structure; outlines its contents and discusses how it may be used including important caveats.

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