Report from 130 national academies issues wake-up call (November 2018)
The current approach to food, nutrition, agriculture, and the environment is unsustainable
and must change. There is no time to waste, say the 130 national academies of science and
medicine across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe that create the InterAcademy
The global food system is broken, leaving billions of people either underfed or overweight
and driving the planet towards climate catastrophe.
Providing a healthy, affordable, and environmentally friendly diet for all people will require a
radical transformation of the system, says the report by the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP).
This will depend on better farming methods, wealthy nations consuming less meat and
countries valuing food which is nutritious rather than cheap.
The report, which was peer reviewed and took three years to compile, sets out the scale of
the problems as well as evidence-driven solutions.
The global food system is responsible for a third of all greenhouse gas emissions,
which is more than all emissions from transport, heating, lighting and air conditioning
The global warming that this is causing is now damaging food production through extreme
weather events such as floods and droughts.
The food system also fails to properly nourish billions of people. More than 820 million
people went hungry last year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, while
a third of all people did not get enough vitamins. At the same time, 600 million people were
classed as obese and 2 billion overweight, with serious consequences for their health. On
top of this, more than 1bn tonnes of food is wasted every year, one third of the total
Reducing meat and dairy consumption is the single biggest way individuals can
lessen their impact on the planet, according to recent research. And tackling
dangerous global warming is considered impossible without massive reductions in
Rearing cattle and other livestock causes the same carbon emissions as all the world’s
vehicles, trains, ships and planes combined. We have spent 30 to 40 years investing quite
heavily on fuel efficiency in the transport sector. We need do something similarly radical in
the farming sector and the scope for doing that by changing the way we raise the animals is
much smaller than the scope we have by changing our diets.
“The global food system is broken,” said Tim Benton, professor of population ecology, at the
University of Leeds, who is a member of one of the expert editorial groups which produced
the report. He said the cost of the damage to human health and the environment was much
greater than the profits made by the farming industry.
There must be ambitious efforts by policymakers and other leaders to influence consumer
behaviours that produce greenhouse gas emissions. Changing dietary consumption could
bring co-benefits to health and climate such as reducing meat consumption in some regions
like Europe or increasing innovative foods and diets. Examples of innovative foods include
meat–mushroom mixes, lab-grown meat, algae, and appealing insect-based foods.
IAP advises creating an international advisory panel on food and nutrition security and
agriculture, to include participation by academies and to strengthen international governance
Written by Magdalena Zalejska , You can follow me on Instagram here