Healthy people depend on healthy food systems: World Food Day 2013

WFDToday is World Food Day, the day that marks the founding of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and this year the focus is on sustainable food systems for food security and nutrition. The FAO have produced a brief highlighting the key changes we need to make to our food systems to ensure everyone has access to enough nutritious food.

This year the FAO is emphasizing the ineffectiveness of our current food systems to tackle malnutrition. One in four children under the age of five in the world are stunted due to malnutrition, which when occurring early in childhood can limit physical and mental development for the rest of the child’s life. In total around two million people are not getting sufficient levels of essential vitamins and minerals in their diets, while at the same time some 1.4 billion people are overweight. These different types of malnutrition can coexist within populations and are in some ways linked. Both stunted mothers and overweight mothers can give birth to stunted babies due to a lack of nutrients in their diet, and stunted children are at greater risk of becoming obese as adults.

The cost of malnutrition can be measured in terms of both direct health care costs as well as indirect losses to human productivity and has been estimated at 5% of global income or $3.5 trillion per year. In tackling malnutrition, if we invested $1.2 billion per year for five years the annual gains generated are calculated at some $15.3 billion.

To tackle malnutrition we need to look at every aspect of the food system: the environment, institutions, processes and people. As an example, agriculture, which through poor practice can degrade the environmental resource base on which it depends is a serious threat to our food security. Together with forestry, agriculture uses 60% of the world’s land resources and 70% of the world’s freshwater resources. Using these resources efficiently and sustainably is crucial to ensuring we can feed the world now and into the future. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

New study: A warming world will further intensify extreme precipitation events, NOAA

Pioneers in Sustainable Food Show We Can Eat Well and Protect Environment, NRDC

You taste what you see: Do organic labels bias taste perceptions? Lee et al

Transforming lives through improved access to agricultural education in Africa, NRI

Enterprise fund, Farm Africa

Land sparing versus land sharing: new evidence, Ideas for Sustainability

Traditional weeding methods still prevail on Ugandan farms, Pathways to Productivity

How can agribusiness work best for development? The Guardian

Important source of greenhouse gas emissions from farmland underestimated, UC Davis

Uganda’s genetically modified golden bananas, BBC

Robustness and strategies of adaptation among farmer varieties of African rice (Oryza glaberrima) and Asian rice (Oryza sativa) across West Africa, PLoS One

Examining benefits and safety of genetically modified crops, Peoples Daily

Gender-sensitive climate finance crucial – experts, AlertNet

New IATP report addresses water governance in the 21st century, IATP

Loss of wild pollinators would hit crops, finds study, SciDev.Net

Fighting for family farmers, Huffington Post

The G-20 and Food Security: What Is the Right Agenda? The Stanley Institute

Obama signs ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ written by Monsanto-sponsored senator, RT