A new report from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food (IPES-Food) outlines how industrial food and farming systems are making people sick in a variety of ways. An Overwhelming Case for Action lead author Cecelia Rocha says “Food systems are making us sick. Unhealthy diets are the most obvious link, but are only one of many pathways through which food and farming systems affect human health.”
This infographic from the report summarises the carnage and the resulting economic impact.
In addition to highlighting the perils of the industrial food system, the document identifies five co-dependent leverage points for building healthier food systems. Among these are lines of action we can all champion.
- Promoting food systems thinking.
- Reasserting scientific integrity and research as a public good.
- Bringing the alternatives to light.
- Adopting the precautionary principle.
- Building integrated food policies under participatory governance.
This report follows on from their ground-breaking first report From Uniformity to Diversity: A Paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems.
The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (iPES-Food) yesterday released a superb report What Makes Urban Food Policy Happen: Insights from Five Case Studies. You can access the reports here.
The five cities are Belo Horizonte, (Brazil) Nairobi (Kenya), Amsterdam (The Netherlands), The Golden Horseshoe (Toronto and neighbouring districts) and Detroit (U.S.A). Each city had its own recipe of successful initiatives to transform the food system. This diagram is from Belo Horizonte’s “Municipal Secretariat for Food and Nutritional Security” (SMASAN) summarises their main strategies.
The report gleaned “enablers” of effective food system action from the 5 cities (pages 74 – 75).
1: Background and base-line research has been carried out to inform the policy.
2: Impacts are monitored and new data are collected throughout implementation.
3: Policy is continually or regularly reviewed and renewed.
4: The necessary policy powers and responsibilities exist at the local city government level.
5: Policy at the national level is supportive.
6: The ‘institutional home’ of the policy lends it strategic importance and/or provides channels of influence.
7: A governance body has been established to oversee the policy, that promotes accountability and efficiency.
8: Multiple city govern- ment departments are engaged with and committed to the policy.
9: Policy is developed through participatory process, involving both communities and city government (regardless of top-down or bottom-up origins) and actors across the food system.
10: Conflicts and ideological differences between actors are acknowledged and managed.
11: Part-funding is provi- ded by city government.
12: Overall funds obtained are su cient for implementation.
13: There are no restrictive conditions attached to funding.
14: High-level political commitment from city government is secured and leveraged.
15: Political commitment transcends electoral cycles.
I am grateful that we have international organisations like this to research food systems initiatives across the planet and shine the light on successful models of change.
Our current food system doesn’t serve us well. My perception is that it has evolved into an ideal money making machine – for those who have positioned themselves to harvest the economic benefits. Most of us identify the dynamic below that would seek to lock us in to dependency on big players in the food and health industries.
A recent report from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems identifies food system dynamics and advocates for a European Union Common Food Policy.
In Europe, as here, there is increasing consumer choice around food purchases, but little choice around the food systems that produce that food and deal with its consequences. Problems are exacerbated by siloed thinking, conflicting motives, disconnected policy and self-interest.
The need for new policy responses is made all the more pressing by the multiple crises now afflicting food systems in the EU and around the world, from burgeoning obesity to environmental degradation and pressures on farmer livelihoods. Our current political systems and policy frameworks are ill-equipped to address these crises. The policy tools affecting food systems do not respond to a set of agreed priorities. Instead, our food systems are the by-product of political compromises struck in various fora on the basis of various competing interests. The lack of a coherent food policy, cutting across sectors and joining up different levels of governance, means that accountability is hugely dispersed. When poor outcomes arise, no one can be held to account. With neither a pilot nor a flight plan, it is possible to ignore how badly food systems have veered off course (page 1).
The report positions this problem as a major opportunity. This resonates with our Northland experience.
Food is an entry point for joined up policymaking across multiple sectors and governance levels; sustainable food systems can provide a benchmark for actions in all of those areas. It is also a promising entry point for repairing democratic deficits and reconnecting European citizens with the policy measures put in place by their elected representatives (page 1).
The report is part of a “three year participatory process of Research, Reflection and Citizen Engagement”. With little sign of our government showing such resolve, we are at least raising awareness of the dire need for food policy reform. Please help – the first step is to engage. You can read the report here.
In June 2016 the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems released its first thematic report, From Uniformity to Diversity: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems. The report advocates the shift from industrial food systems to sustainable food systems.
The failure of the industrial food system is presented starkly in the figure below, from page 9 of the report.
Failures of the industrial food system.
In 2015 4.7 billion suffered from inadequate nutrition, that is 6 out of every 10 people. While other global systems are complicit in this failure, collectively we have failed, given the technology we have, the education systems and the exploitation of cheap energy sources.
The report states:
Today’s food and farming systems have succeeded in supplying large volumes of foods to global markets, but are generating negative outcomes on multiple fronts: wide- spread degradation of land, water and ecosystems; high GHG emissions; biodiversity losses; persistent hunger and micro-nutrient deficiencies alongside the rapid rise of obesity and diet-related diseases; and livelihood stresses for farmers around the world.
As someone working at the local level towards sustainable food systems, it is heartening to know that at the global level awareness of the failure of orthodox systems are rising, and there are organisations uniting people from diverse nations to take action. The transformation of our food systems is a place where we can think globally and act locally. Of all of the critical systems that support our economic and social well-being, food is a catalyst for change.
The report includes excellent analysis of the eight “lock-ins” that perpetuate the industrial food system. We can erode their influence with the opportunities emerging around the planet.
- Policy incentives for diversication and agroecology
- Building joined-up ‘food policies’
- Integrated landscape thinking
- Agroecology on the global governance agenda
- Integrated food systems science and education
- Peer-to-peer action research
- Sustainable and Healthy Sourcing
- Short supply chains .
I commend the work of the iPES-FOOD panel. Enjoy their report.