World Food Summit

Better Food for More People: Notes from The World Food Summit 2019

All of us know our food system is broken, but are we all willing to do what it takes to fix it?

Better Food for More People

“The global food system is a major driver of challenges relating to human health, the climate change and environment. We need to think and act in new ways to face challenges of climate changes, hunger, food safety and unhealthy food habits.

The world is facing enormous challenges if we are to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Today, more than 800 million people live in hunger, 1 in 10 people in the world fall ill after eating contaminated food, while more than 2 billion people are overweight or obese. More than 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year, equivalent to 24% of all food produced for human consumption.

In connection with these figures a huge challenge is that international researchers point out that expected changes in population and income levels in the period 2010 to 2050 can increase environmental impact from production and consumption of food by 50-90% globally if targeted remedial measures are not taken. The environmental impact will reach levels beyond the planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity.

According to researchers, only a combination of measures will be sufficient to mitigate the expected increase in environmental impact. Combined efforts in relation to prevention and reduction of food waste, technological changes to increase the resource efficiency in food production and changed dietary habits are imperative.”

During the last week of August, Copenhagen was the host city to the World Food Summit 2019 and a series of side events to discuss strategies towards tackling the aforementioned challenges and realising the mantra of the summit: Better Food for More People.

World Food Summit Panel 2019

How do we create the necessary change? And what is the role of governments, international organisations, private sector, academia and civil society?

Based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the World Food Summit connects leaders from around the world to discuss concrete solutions for transforming the global food system, focusing on the following topics:

-Ensuring Food Safety and Food Security
-Better Health and Diets
-Improved Resource Efficiency

The World Food Summit is an annual accelerator of actions necessary to transform the food systems to become safer, healthier, and more sustainable in response to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Danish Minister for Food Mr. Mogens Jensen hosted the Summit to work with leaders ready to act on the global food challenges.

The first day of the summit was held in the national parliament of Denmark with an honorary visit from HRH the Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. Speakers from different parts of the world shared their own visions and solutions in the fields of the environmental impact of agriculture, waste prevention, and the necessity of an overhaul in our dietary choices. The fundamental message of all the talks was clear: there is no time left for inaction!

On the second day of the summit, three workshops identified key actions from all stakeholders globally that will enable us to reach the identified pathways towards a healthy and sustainable food system in accordance with the sustainable development goals.

World Food Summit Conference 2019

World Food Summit plans to tackle the challenges facing our food systems

These are some of the suggestions made by the workshop moderators at the end of day two:

-Reform the agricultural subsidy program to reflect the real price of food
-Support and empower local production
-Educate the general public on nutrition
-Implement regional solutions by considering the specific differences and needs
-Create a World Food Forum to come up with guidelines and minimum standards that will help businesses to move in the right direction using new business models
-Enforce governmental regulation, minimum standards and trade deals that prioritise environmental concerns
-Invest in the whole value chain to ease the transition to a sustainable food system
-Rethink the fundamentally flawed systems instead of super optimisation
-Create the global food-borne diseases database through WHO and national governments
-Implement transparency and accountability in the value chain as an indispensable characteristic of the system

During last year’s summit, ten countries became signatory partners to one or more of the World Food Summit’s three commitments. These commitments are about information and nutrition, food safety and food waste; together, they create a framework that can generate tangible results going forward and establish cooperation between partner countries on fostering local solutions and public-private partnerships. This year, five more countries added their names to the signatory lists of these commitments to show there is a strong collective will to commit and work in collaboration to tackle the challenges facing our food systems.

World Food Summit speech 2019

We are way past the time for making small changes to mitigate climate crisis: we need a plan to revamp our entire food system as fast as possible.

The Danish food minister Mr. Jensen closed the summit by reminding everyone about what John F. Kennedy said on his 1962 speech that lead to the Apollo 11 mission later on. We need to come up with business models to achieve goals like the Danish government’s ambitious plan of 70% fewer emissions from 1990s levels; no one knows how exactly we will get there but first you need to have bold ideas and then find the ways to fulfil them.

Take home messages:

-Identify the false advertisements and marketing schemes and support governments, businesses and organizations that are truly fighting for a better future for our food systems
-Embrace different solutions and diversify our actions in fixing the food system
-There is less focus on the production methods than in waste and consumer choices
-Research on crucial issues like climate change should be a public funded program to avoid biases-We need to come up with a transition period plan for industries that are problematic to our planet to change their business models
-Financing innovation should be our number one priority
-Raising awareness about our food system, labelling and carbon tax need to be a continuous effort

We need to diversify the solutions and a commitment from all of us to consider the repercussions of our daily decisions on the planet. Going back to John F. Kennedy’s vision “We have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world or make it the last.”

Words by AVF Head of Science & Education Ramin Ebrahimnejad. Ramin will be leading a special session on all these topics and more at the upcoming event The Role of Urban Food Systems in a Changing Climate at C40 World Summit in Copenhagen on 10 October, 2019. The event is free and you can sign up to attend at this link: https://bit.ly/2k54fOY

To get in touch with Ramin Ebrahimnejad, please e-mail re@vertical-farming.net

Kyle Baldock

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