How To Transform The Way The World Produces, Consumes & Thinks About Food.

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Philip Lymbery | How To Transform The Way The World Produces, Consumes & Thinks About Food

How To Transform The Way The World Produces, Consumes & Thinks About Food

 This is a 3 page article.

Why the UN Food Systems Summit is Already a Success

Transformation – denoting a complete change to make things better – is the ambition of the UN Food Systems Summit scheduled for New York in September.

The Summit aims to awaken the world to the fact that we all must work together to transform the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food. It is a summit for everyone everywhere – a people’s summit. It is also a solutions summit that will require everyone to take action to transform the world’s food systems.

It was convened by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres with the words, “It is time to change how we produce and consume, including to reduce greenhouse emissions. Transforming food systems is crucial for delivering all the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Big Change

What excites me about the Summit is that word, transforming food systems. What has been missing from previous narratives by policymakers about food is that tweaking the system isn’t nearly enough. That big change is needed. And the first step to big change is recognition. Recognition that there is a problem of a scale that needs game-changing solutions. That the only thing that will save the day is transformation

The Summit itself is recognition that without transformational change in the global food sector, then the world will fall perilously short of sustainability targets set by world leaders for 2030. By Compassion In World Farming’s own analysis, without a move away from industrial animal agriculture – factory farming – several crucial Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be rendered unreachable.

The fact the Summit has been called at all is big news. For many years, sustainability, health, the environment and animal welfare issues have worked against a backdrop that food matters have generally been low on the political agenda.

For decades, there has been a marked complacency about food and the way we produce it. Governments have seen cheap food at any cost as a meal ticket to popularity.

Policymakers at national and international level have long failed to recognise the pivotal role of food to addressing so many of the major challenges facing our society: climate change, the collapse of nature, sustainability (or the lack of it). Food, particularly resource-intensive meat and other animal-sourced foods have barely registered in climate talks. Biodiversity conferences have largely ignored the elephant in the room – that the industrialisation of food has driven the collapse of nature.

Health considerations too have largely been disconnected from food, at least until recently. The Covid pandemic has highlighted the interconnectedness of issues, including how keeping animals in industrial breeding grounds for disease could be brewing up the next pandemic. The EU’s ruling Council in Brussels, for example, recently described industrial agriculture as increasing the “risk of future pandemics” and went on to say that it “needs to be tackled” alongside other major issues including climate change and deforestation.

And then there is hunger, the UN Secretary General’s starting point when convening the conference. Guterres pointed out that, “Today, more than 820 million people do not have enough to eat. It is unacceptable that hunger is on the rise at a time when the world wastes more than 1 billion tonnes of food every year”. And he’s right. The world produces enough food for twice the number of people alive today. Yet, four billion people’s worth of food is feeding factory farmed animals who then waste the vast majority of calories and protein in conversion to meat, milk and eggs.

On top of this, industrialised animal agriculture outcompetes small-scale farmers, especially women and indigenous peoples in the developing Global South, robbing them of the ability to produce their own food, often leaving them too poor to buy the industrialised products, causing serious food security issues. 

Continued on next page

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