The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition just came out with its latest report: “Future Food Systems: For people, our planet, and prosperity“. There’s a lot to, ahem, digest in there, but Dr Shenggen Fan has a brief blog post to whet the appetite. He summarizes the policy objectives of the necessary transformation of the food system as follows:
- sustainably producing the right mix of healthy foods in sufficient quantities
- ensuring those foods are readily accessible and at low cost
- making healthy and sustainable diets affordable to everyone
- empowering consumers to make informed food choices
Which is fair enough, but how do you do that when governments, the private sector and households have different, and sometimes competing, goals and priorities? Well, for that you have to go to page 179-182 of the report, where you’ll find a long menu of stuff. But let me give you a taste. Here’s what I happen to think are the most mouth-watering single actions that should be taken by different actors, according to the report:
- Governments: Rebalance subsidies going to the agriculture sector in ways that better support sustainable, healthy diets.
- Development partners: Realign donor policy priorities towards supporting actions which promote simultaneous achievement of planetary and human health goals.
- Commercial food companies: Increase private R&D to support locally appropriate nutrient-rich foods and share related intellectual property with public research entities.
- Civil society and citizens: Advocate for institutional investors and asset managers to link human and environmental health goals to their core strategies.
Needless to say, crop diversity comes into all these, and indeed many, if not all, of the other actions the report recommends. Though, naturally, I would say that, wouldn’t I?
And since I’m here, maybe this is a good time to talk about another report also just out, IPES-Food’s latest: “The Added Value(s) of Agroecology: Unlocking the Potential in West Africa.” Thanks to the Panels’ social media team for highlighting in a tweet what the report says on page 71:
…farmer seed systems are relegated to ‘informal’ status, and their potential to support diversified agroecological farming is held back. While farmer seed systems for cereal crops are highly developed, access to vegetable seeds remains low. As a result, the risks of genetic uniformity of crops, loss of biodiversity, and farmer indebtedness are high, and the prospects for agroecology are severely constrained. As Issouf Sanou, coordinator of FENOP, testifies: “In the beginning, people believed that improved seed would improve farmers’ living conditions, but we very quickly realized that improved seeds had a lifespan [ …] Improved seeds means pesticides, means fertilizers […] And all this creates dependence.”
An opportunity for realigning some of those subsidies and priorities?