October 16 is World Food Day. It marks the anniversary of the creation of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO (16 October 1945). The FAO works hard to ensure that this day is “celebrated” all over the world. The day was marked at the European Parliament in Brussels by a conference with the title “Zero Hunger by 2030 is possible”. We will take a quick look at the event because, along with the usual ritual speeches, there were some very interesting presentations.
The director of the Bioeconomy programme of the European Commission’s Research and Innovation DG stressed the importance of European research on food, and in particular the contribution it can and must make at the political level. Research on food must combine all aspects, from the most technical to those that are most closely connected to society and the environment. Separating or splitting them up, as often happened in the past, removes the possibility of obtaining concrete and feasible outcomes for future generations. Research and studies must therefore take on the systems of food production, diet and nutrition, while at the same time respecting food security in all its detail, as well as the creation of decent jobs.
This sense of purpose must be transferred above all to the responsibility of the European political class, especially when it comes to allocating funds for research.
Speeches from three of the experts invited to the conference shed light on how the Director of the Commission’s message can be put into practice.
A new paradigm is needed for European research into food. It must include the contradictory aspects that create risks to the health both of humans and the environment.
Agroecology must be the linchpin for showing that food production can be done differently while remaining equally profitable as industrial farming.
With this end in mind, the results of current and past research are the platform on which data regarding human and environmental aspects should be integrated. Data on sustainability, resilience, health, diet should be integrated in order to face up to the changes needed in current societies based solely on consumption. The final presentation on the theme of “diet” was particularly significant because it linked the subject to the increasing scarcity of land, to the problem of poverty (“Never regard it as an isolated problem!”) and the need for a stronger dialogue between science and politics. This would consist of a food policy in which governments, the academic world, industry and individuals: start again from correct planning for soil use, work at the European, national and local level through particular political choices, and succeed in changing current behaviour which is inadequate at both the public (canteens, hospitals, school refectories etc.) and private levels.
There are several documents that comprehensively illustrate what we are talking about. Here are links to two of them, with a reminder of the words of Gustave Le Bon:
“Thought without action is a vain mirage. Action without thought is a futile effort.”
Too Big to Feed – Report of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food)
FOOD 2030 Research and Innovation for Food and Nutrition Security – Transforming our Food System