UN Food Systems Summit

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After 18 months of preparation, the much awaited UN Food Systems Summit took place this September 23rd and 24th, where hundreds of world leaders (prime ministers, agricultural ministers, international organisations – such as FAO or the World Food Program -, experts, farmers, representatives from the civil society and indigenous people) have expressed their vision on the future of the planet’s food systems.

Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, has outlined the current state of play regarding reaching Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero hunger; and highlighted the challenges ahead. He has recalled that each day hundreds of millions of people go to bed hungry and three billion people cannot afford a healthy diet, which numbers have gotten even worse after the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. He stated that “change in food systems is not only possible, it is necessary” for the people, for the planet and for prosperity. In his intervention he highlighted that there’s a need for food systems that

  • support the health and well-being of all people,
  • protect the planet and which
  • support prosperity.

Prof. Joachim von Braun, the Chair of the Food Systems Summit Scientific Group, underlined that good food is undervalued and that science says we can end hunger by 2030, but much greater investment is needed to achieve this. He has praised climate-neutral food systems to be recognised as a goal, and that nature-based solutions must be promoted. He added that living wage goes hand in hand with zero hunger and that digital opportunities related to food are not yet exploited, plus gene editing should be pursued as well. He has also floated the idea of a kind of “IPCC of food” as well.

From the side of the EU, Executive-Vice President Frans Timmermans made a speech about having a “make or break decade”, where humanity faces the challenge of learning to live within planetary boundaries.

He highlighted that food production is a big driver of ecocide and GHGs, and yet farmers are the first the suffer due to climate change, hence we must act now. In the EU, thus the Farm to Fork Strategy was put forward, but the shift to sustainable food systems needs to be a global movement.

He has spoken about the biodiversity goals such as, that by 2030, the Commission aims to halve the use of pesticide and farm ¼ of land organically. He stated that we need to make sure that the easy choice is the healthy choice. Finally, he recalled the EU code of conduct for responsible marketing practices, which he believes will trigger a real change and called upon others to follow it.

On the other side of the Atlantic, US President Biden pledged $10 billion to eradicate hunger, half of which will be spent in the US and half in the rest of the world (https://www.feedthefuture.gov). The US also presented its idea of sustainable productivity growth and doubling of climate innovation in agriculture to reduce emissions (Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate). The Gates Foundation has also committed $922 million to advance global nutrition to help women and children.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, who has also highlighted the need for more and better targeted and sustained investments, had declared that FAO will take the lead on implementing the UN Food Systems Summit outcomes, such as the 5 Areas of Action:

Action Track 1: Ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all
Action Track 2: Shift to sustainable consumption patterns
Action Track 3: Boost nature-positive production
Action Track 4: Advance equitable livelihoods
Action Track 5: Build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stress

A link to the event: https://www.un.org/en/food-systems-summit