Q&A: UN Food Systems Summit Opportunity for the World to Unite on Healthy, Fair & Sustainable Food Systems

Jul 09 2021


Before the COVID-19 pandemic upended every sphere of life, the world was lagging on a goal to end hunger by 2030. According to the United Nations, more than 820 million people had already been categorised as food insecure, meaning they lacked access to reliable and sufficient amounts of affordable, healthy food.

The impact of measures to contain the virus, land degradation, climate change and the global extreme poverty rate rising for the first time in over 20 years, make the need for a transition to sustainable food systems more important than ever.

The United Nations Food Systems Summit hopes to bring together the science, finance and political commitment to transform global food systems. The goal is to introduce systems that are productive, environmentally sustainable, include the poor and promote healthy diets.

The Barilla Centre For Food and Nutrition (BCFN) Foundation, a longstanding investor in research, education and high-level events on sustainable food systems has been actively involved in activities in the lead-up to the summit.

IPS interviewed the think tank’s Head of Research Dr Marta Antonelli and dietician Katarzyna Dembska about climate change and diets, successful food systems and the Foundation’s own initiatives to improve education, science and skills for healthy, fair and sustainable food systems.

Inter Press Service (IPS):     The UN states that half of all agricultural land is degraded and that with climate change-fuelled desertification and drought, combined with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, 34 million people at risk of famine. How can food systems be protected within this grim context?

Katarzyna Dembska (KD): According to the IPCC, land-use change, land-use intensification and climate change have contributed to desertification and land degradation. At the same time, many land-related responses that contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation can also combat desertification and land degradation, as well as enhance food security. Examples include sustainable food production, improved and sustainable forest management, soil organic carbon management, ecosystem conservation and land restoration, reduced deforestation and degradation, and reduced food loss and waste.

Integrated crop and livestock systems are an example of sustainable food production, that increases efficiency and environmental sustainability with a truly circular approach: for example, manure increases crop production and crop residues and by-products feed animals, improving their productivity. Rice-fish integrated systems, with a long history in many Asian countries, are another example of very integrated systems that also contribute to increased food security.

In addition, sustainable land management practices, implementing a zero-expansion policy which do not require land-use change, especially of new agricultural land into natural ecosystems and species-rich forests, has been identified by the Eat-Lancet commission as a key action to achieve the so-called Great Food Transformation.
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Source: Inter Press Service | Food & Agriculture