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Future Food Systems: For people, our planet and prosperity

On the 29th September 2020, the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition released its second foresight report entitled ‘Future Food Systems: For people, our planet and prosperity.’ The report, developed over the course of two years by an international team of experts, aims to distill the latest scientific and policy expertise on transforming food systems and highlight key actions to support the delivery of sustainable, healthy diets to all.

The report acknowledges that, globally, food systems are no longer fit for purpose and are continuing to operate unsustainably, leaving an estimated three billion people currently unable to afford healthy diets and over 200 million children under five years of age with insufficient amounts of food. The report notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed systemic weaknesses in food systems that were already threatened by climate change and worsening environmental degradation.

While the situation looks bleak, the report emphasises that the current plight can be reversed with revitalised leadership, increased political will and sustained commitment. As such, the focus of the report is not on the challenges but rather on the potential solutions, outlining pragmatic and concrete actions, grounded in reality, that need to be taken. While food systems are comprised of a number of interconnected sub-systems, transformation will require a series of steps across the entire system in four key areas: producing the right mix of foods in sufficient quantities to deliver sustainable, healthy diets, ensuring such foods are accessible, ensuring foods are affordable and, critically, ensuring that they are desirable to consumers. The report profiles actions that governments, the private sector, development partners and civil society need to take in order to improve the availability, accessibility, affordability and desirability of nutrient-rich foods, shifting the focus from food provision to the provision of sustainable, healthy foods.

Primarily targeting decision makers in low- and middle- income countries, the report acknowledges that they alone cannot improve global challenges and that, in a highly interconnected world, high-income countries also have a role to play. It calls for governments to be more active in confronting the difficult choices that have to be made to reform food systems and influence the drivers of dietary choice. The report recognises that there are many factors that impede progress on policy change for food system transformation including powerful actors that are motivated by factors unrelated to health or food system sustainability, misaligned policy incentives (such as subsidy policies) and short-term siloed agendas. In outlining the potential next steps, the report calls for countries to resolve policy incoherence and distortions, establish multi-win targets that are attractive to multiple constituencies and leverage existing interventions that can be made more food-system friendly.

While recognising that the cost of ensuring that every individual is able to eat a healthy diet every day will be significant, the report shows that the cost of no action will be immeasurably higher. The benefits of decisive action include millions of new jobs created, reduced economic burden of ill health, reduced costs to health systems and substantial gains from mitigating and avoiding global damage from climate change.

Read the full report here.

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Future Food Systems: For people, our planet and prosperity. , January 0001. www.ennonline.net/fex/globalpanelforesightreport2.0

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