Tuesday, October 19

Why are food systems failing? | Blog 3500 Million



Despite producing more food than ever before and there are enough products for a population much larger than the current one, there are still more than 700 million people who are hungry – and the pandemic could increase this number by another 100 million. There are 2 billion who suffer from hidden hunger (micronutrient deficiencies) and more than 2 billion who are overweight or obese, contributing to the increasing incidence of food-related diseases.

The overriding goal that food systems should have is not being met: they are failing to feed humanity adequately and they are not doing everything they should be doing to eradicate hunger and malnutrition. The lives and health of people suffer from an unhealthy diet, often because they do not have access to adequate food. But in addition, these systems are consuming many resources and even deteriorating the productive bases. According the european commission, 60% of the world’s main ecosystems that contribute to the production of food, feed and fiber are already degraded or are being exploited in an unsustainable way.

Many experts in the field point out that radical changes are needed in food systems. If they are not thoroughly reviewed, in addition to accumulating suffering, they could jeopardize the realization of several of the Sustainable Development Goals.

According to the European Commission, 60% of the world’s main ecosystems that contribute to the production of food, feed and fiber are already degraded or are being exploited unsustainably

Surely these are the concerns that prompted the Secretary General of the United Nations to convene the Summit on Food Systems for next fall and to launch a preparatory process that should be deeply and widely involved. However, in the last six months, a multitude of voices have been heard at a global level expressing concern about the turn that the preparatory process is taking. The last have been the voices of the three people who have occupied the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food since 2008, who have made public a joint letter about it.

In this line, the Observatory of the Right to Food of Spain, made up of 14 universities and more than a dozen social entities, has published a reflection paper, which raises several key proposals:

  • Respect, protection and guarantee of the human right to food must be the priority objective of the approaches to reform of the food systems.
  • The health of people and the planet must be ahead of other interests.
  • Agroecology should be the main paradigm – if not the only one – to promote the transition of agricultural production from sustainability criteria.
  • Family and peasant agriculture, practiced on an agroecological basis, should have a priority place in policies to promote sustainable food systems.
  • The preparatory process for the United Nations Food Systems Summit must be thoroughly reviewed, from criteria of good governance and broad and plural participation of the different actors. The results of a Summit that has been biased towards the interests of the agribusiness private sector will not be recognized as legitimate.
  • Leadership in this process is required to be exercised by the United Nations Committee on Food Safety.

According to the recommendations given by the United Nations, on this path to the Food Systems Summit, dialogues that offer “all participants an opportunity to help envision the future of the sector and to reflect on how to work together to radically change things in the next decade.” Social and academic organizations of our country are waiting for the convocation of this conversation by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Probably the significance of this meeting is going unnoticed by public opinion, focused on the concerns arising from the pandemic. The fact that there are almost four times more deaths from inadequate nutrition than from covid-19 should make us pay more attention, because the stakes are high.

Jose Maria Medina Rey is responsible for knowledge management of Root Rights and member of the coordination team of the ODA-E.


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