Rome - Companies and consumers must step up their efforts to overhaul the world's food systems at a time when the twin spectres of hunger and obesity are both on the rise, FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva told delegates at the Committee on World Food Security (CFS).
Some 815 million people suffered from hunger in 2016, yet more and more adults and children are becoming obese in both the developed and developing worlds, he noted.
"This can compromise future human generations," he said, calling for "more active policies" to drive the creation of sustainable food systems. "This is a huge task that governments alone will not be able to fulfill."
The 44th plenary session of the CFS began today. The body offers an inclusive platform for all stakeholders, including governments, civil society and the private sector, to work together and develop policy recommendations and guidance on topics affecting food security and nutrition. It has promulgated landmark guidelines on land tenure, responsible investments in agriculture and guidelines for food security and nutrition in protracted crises. This year's policy focus is on sustainable forestry and urbanization, while the High-Level Panel of Experts will release a new report on Nutrition and Food Systems.
The inclusion of the private sector in consensus-driven efforts of CFS is especially important as it has a special role in making sure that healthier foods are produced, that clear rules are introduced for advertising food items, and that consumers are kept fully aware of what they eat, Graziano da Silva said.
He also announced that FAO and the World Health Organization will co-organize in early 2019 an International Conference on Food Safety, building on discussions and momentum achieved during the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in 2014.
"To end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition requires policy coherence and coordination among different actors and sectors - what we do here at CFS," said CFS Chair Amira Gornass of Sudan. "I hope we all agree."
"Hunger can reappear and come back stronger than it was before," said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. "Only long-term strategies and investments can end hunger and poverty, and prevent both from returning. That is what sustainability is."
"We've got to take efforts up to the next level," said David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, adding that donors share responsibility with UN agencies for developing efficient and effective interventions. The most important task for leaders around the world is to end conflicts and violence, he said, pointing out that 80 percent of the world's 155 million stunted children under the age of five live in conflict zones.
Ghana in the spotlight
John Agyekum Kufuor, who as President of Ghana from 2001 to 2009 presided over dramatic declines in his nation's hunger and poverty rates, gave a keynote address to the CFS plenary. Country leadership and global governance are both required to usher in sustainable food systems and deliver on climate change pledges, he said.
"What affects one country in the world affects all other parts," he said. Tackling the planet's "looming existential challenges" will in particular require providing technical and institutional assistance to developing countries - especially in Africa which expects rapid population growth in the coming decades - to step up to their role in collective strategies, he said.
Kufuor also reflected on effective national measures for the agriculture sector taken in Ghana, which began 15 years ago with overhauling the tax system for cocoa farmers and now involves innovative yield-raising pollination systems.
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations