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food | water

‘Critical juncture’ for food systems

A UN-backed study earlier this year revealed food systems are responsible for more than one-third of global greenhouse emissions. This is the combined impact of the way food is produced, processed and packaged. They are also leaving one in ten of the global population malnourished.

The technology, policies, markets, and regulations dictating food systems are simply failing to keep everyone fed, 811 million people are undernourished, and an additional two billion are expected to push the global population to nearly 10 billion within decades, a trajectory that will inevitably increase hunger levels, unless these systems are made fit for purpose.

In the summer, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report painted a bleak picture, with COVID pressures shown to have worsened an already desperate situation. The authors of the report said the world is at a ‘critical juncture’ but that 2021 can provide a springboard for transforming food systems.

“This year offers a unique opportunity for advancing food security and nutrition through transforming food systems with the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit, the Nutrition for Growth Summit and the COP26 on climate change. The outcome of these events will go on to shape the second half of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition.”

Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to expose weaknesses in our food systems.

UN SOFI report

The UN Food Systems Summit kicks off in New York later this month. The summit follows 18 months of collaborative efforts between a wide range of stakeholders, including UN Member States, youth groups, food producers, Indigenous Peoples, civil society, and the private sector. Tasked with formulating strategies that can accelerate ‘positive changes to the world’s food systems’ the New York summit will provide a platform for what everyone hopes will be the announcement of ambitious plans capable of radically reshaping food systems.

Food waste

Dr Brent Loken, the Global Food Lead Scientist for WWF, spoke with Marc Buckley recently on the Inside Ideas podcast and said food waste is a gargantuan problem that must be addressed quickly.

“One of the key issues moving forward is we need to work out how we are going to feed every person on this planet without expanding agricultural land,” he said. “We have to not only feed 7.7 billion on it but we will have to feed 10 billion people on that by 2050. And that is where food waste comes in because food waste automatically comes back to land and how we use the resource – and you have to use them much more efficiently.”

On the back of this year’s Food Waste Index Report, which revealed 10% of global emissions result from ‘food that is not consumed, Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP, said: ‘if food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions’. 

Dr Loken calls for action that can address address issues linked to food production.

“We need to think about how we actually produce the food,” he added. “Because producing the food a lot more efficiently on land is something we have to do to ensure we are not cutting down more trees, which increases greenhouse gas emissions, increases biodiversity loss.”

Policy-makers and decision-makers have the power to lead on this and the virtual UN Food Systems Summit on 23 September gives them the perfect opportunity to explain how they plan to do it. Anyone can sign up to join the event, learn more about the key issues and be part of what could be an important moment for the future of food.

Speaking at the pre-summit in July, Paul Polman, CEO, Imagine, said: “This is a once in a generation opportunity, we need nature positive, net zero food systems, and [for the]to be equitable. I hope we rise to the challenge.” 

Catch up with the full Dr Loken interview below.

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Written By

Iain is an experienced writer, journalist and lecturer, who held editorships with a number of business focussed publications before co-founding and becoming editor of Innovators Magazine. Iain is also the strategic director for OnePoint5Media.

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