Future Food Systems: For people, our planet, and prosperity

 

 

By Shenggen Fan
Chair Professor, China Agricultural University
Former Director General of International Food Policy Research Institute
Member of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition
 

Twitter: @ShenggenFan @Glo_PAN @IFPRI

 

The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition (www.glopan.org) is publishing a ground-breaking Foresight report on 29th September: “Future Food Systems: For people, our planet, and prosperity”.

The report paints a sobering picture, detailing how our food systems are now in a spiral of decline with environmental systems: three billion people cannot afford healthy diets, and 11 million are dying each year from diet-related illnesses. Worse, Covid-19 has now attacked the global food system from multiple angles – affecting all aspects from food production through to retail.

The report shows that the impacts go much further than the health of people and the planet. Outdated food systems and the diets they deliver are locking people into poverty and inequality, and costing US $12 trillion each year. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in food systems, which were already threatened by ongoing climate change and worsening environmental degradation. In particular, more than 130 million will be acutely hungry in 2020 because of the pandemic. This situation is simply unsustainable.

The Foresight report shows how these crises are interlinked, with food systems at the nexus. However, it shows that the current bleak outlook is not inevitable. It sets out a path forward by detailing the necessary steps to turn the situation around. But, this will involve urgent and decisive action - and difficult decisions given the inevitable trade-offs and resource constraints of the post-COVID world.

In line with the best available scientific evidence, the report details four policy objectives that can transform food systems. These include 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; and empowering consumers to make informed food choices.

Achieving these policy objectives requires practical considerations. The many actors in food systems oftentimes have different goals. Governments must balance priorities; the private sector make investment choices on product portfolios; and households must balance food purchase choices. The Foresight report provides clear steps to manage the transition to healthy, sustainable food systems that resolves policy distortions, finds common ground through multi-win targets, and leveraging existing interventions to make them more food-system friendly.

Everyone needs to play their part – governments, the private sector, donor organisations, researchers, and citizens themselves. 2021 will be a critical year – it will bring a cluster of major events: the UN Food Systems Summit, the Nutrition For Growth Summit, COP26 on climate change and COP 15 on biodiversity. The report urges world leaders to seize the opportunity offered by these events to take the critical decisions that are so urgently needed.

Join the report launch

The report will be launched by a joint webinar involving the Global Panel and the FAO on 29th September 14:00 – 15:30 CET. You can register here.

Read the report

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shenggen Fan has extensive experience in developing strong connections at the highest levels with a wide range of influential stakeholders, and has engaged widely on issues related to agriculture, food, health, climate change, natural resource management and information technologies. He is currently Chair Professor at the College of Economics and Management at China Agricultural University in Beijing. He is a member of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition; the Advisory Council of the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford; the Board of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture; and the Council of Advisers of the World Food Prize. He also serves as a member of the Lead Group for the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement appointed by the UN Secretary General.

He previously spent over 20 years with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), including as Director General for the ten-year period until his departure in December 2019. His previous roles within IFPRI included several years as Division Director of Development Strategy and Governance, and prior to that, as a Research Fellow. His earlier professional experience also includes time as a Research Economist in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology at the University of Arkansas and as a Post-doctoral Fellow and Associate Research Officer at the International Service for National Agricultural Research in the Netherlands. He holds a PhD in Applied Economics and an MSc in Agricultural Economics.