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Food Systems Across the World has the Potential to End World Hunger: UNEP

Shivam Dwivedi
Shivam Dwivedi
Glober Hunger
Glober Hunger

Entire world has seen a dramatic rise in 'Hunger' due to COVID-19 Pandemic. As per 'The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World', one tenth of the global population-as many as 811 million people were undernourished in 2020, which is much higher than the previous year.

Recent Findings:

Recently, a report published in July 2021 by the FAO, the World Food Programme, the WHO and other UN agencies highlighted that food insecurity is being driven by climate change, conflict and the economic recession. Therefore, it's very important to recognize this problem, otherwise 'Goal 2' of SDG of 'ending Hunger' by 2030 will be missed by a margin of nearly 660 million people.

Acknowledging the urgency of this problem, UN- Secretary General, Antonio Guterres will convene 'UN Food Systems Summit' in September 2021, it will highlight about the challenges and opportunities to transform food systems and end hunger by 2030.

As per the report, in present time, more than 800 million people in the world are not getting food properly & hungry, 2 billion people across the world are suffering from micronutrient deficiencies and are overweight or obese. But such groups are not very different and not all malnutrition is the result of food insufficiency. So when we should consider food as a component of global health, it's not a matter of quantity only.

Other issue is the effect of food systems on the environment. Food systems are accountable for approx 70 per cent of the water extracted from nature, causing about 60 per cent of biodiversity loss and create up to a third of human greenhouse gas emissions. It's heartbreaking to hear that in producing food, we have contributed to climate change and global warming, which has come to endanger food-security.

If we'll look at the Global Food Systems in more holistic way, we'll find the significance of expanding the conversation to include the entire value chain- not just the production & consumption but also the food processing, packaging, transport, retail and food services.

By considering and giving value to the entire food system, we are better to understand current problems and to address them in a more integrated way.

Current Problems with Food Systems:

Our understanding & knowledge about food systems is still limited and better to say incomplete right now. Most of the available data focus on agriculture- where the food chain starts.  If we look at the other side of supply chain, individual choices and consumption patterns are fragmented.

Right now, we don't have a clear picture of the middle portion of the food chain. Therefore, what is happening between the farm and the table?  This 'middle part' is an important driver of how food is produced, what and how we consume it.

Nature has not been acknowledged as a form of capital, at the policy level. Therefore, policies and laws are not exclusively designed to prevent pollution and other forms of environmental degradation.

At the end of the food-chain, consumers may not know how food reaches their plates or be aware of the health and environmental consequences of their dietary choices.

Future Ahead:

Various countries across the world are already producing sufficient food to feed everyone on the planet. But, as per recent UNEP report, over 17 per cent of food is misspend or wasted which results in up to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

At the consumer end, leftover food is thrown away, or as post-harvest losses like- in storage, transportation, packaging or other levels before food reaches the table.

UNEP found that the global average of 74 kg per capita of food wasted every year is similar from lower-middle-income to high-income countries, which means that most countries have space to improve.

Dietary habits of people of different places represent another area of intervention. In last 50 years, diets have become increasingly homogenous and corresponding, dominated by crops that are high in energy but poor in macro-nutrients.

In the past, thousands of plants and animals used for food and less than 200 currently contribute to global food supplies and just 9 crops account for almost 70 per cent of all crop production. In case of developing countries, people don't get the full range of nutrients essential to human health resulting in low caloric insufficiency as the primary driver of death.

Furthermore, with people becoming wealthier, they tend to embrace more resource-intensive diets. Over 75 percent of all agricultural land is used for feed production, pasture and grazing for livestock and overuse of antibiotics- to improve livestock yield, survival and growth-has caused antimicrobial resistance in both humans and animals.

As per EAT-Lancet Commission, moving toward "diets with a diversity of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal source foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and limited amounts of refined grains, highly-processed foods and added sugars- could prevent between 19 and 24 percent of all adult deaths, each year.”

Therefore, by reducing food waste and shifting dietary patterns could lessen anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from the food system by as much as 50 percent and restoring biodiversity could build up the resilience of food systems, enabling farmers to diversify production and cope with pests, diseases and climate change.

Practical, Nature-based Solutions are entirely within our control but require Radical & Transformative Change.

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