Tools exist to create a sustainable world food system, but it will also require a range of efforts from policymakers, consumers and the food business, panellists told a Friends of Europe Policy Insight on the challenge of providing food to a world growing more urban, affluent and populous. Global productivity is rising, and a more efficient supply chain is providing more people with safe, nutritious and affordable food.
However, access to food is still uneven, especially among the poorest people. Climate change could reduce farm productivity in future, while agriculture itself is also a major source of greenhouse gases. And the world’s expanding middle class wants to eat more meat than before.
“Meat consumption is the most inefficient way of getting protein into your system because it requires three to seven times the weight in terms of compound feeds to get it onto your plate,” said Robert Horster, Trading Director of Cargill’s Europe Refined Oils Division. “The economic centre of world is moving east and south – away from food production. That means that as population grows, food will have to cross borders much more than it does today.”
That food must also be produced in a sustainable manner. Number two of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN in September calls for ending hunger while promoting sustainable agriculture. Though it is not in farmers’ short-term interests to pay attention to concerns such as greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation, sustainable agriculture is a condition for their future survival.
Current global agricultural practices will contribute to global warming, meaning that a map of the European Union in 2050 would look brownish, said Tassos Haniotis, Director of Economic Analysis, Perspectives and Evaluations at the European Commission Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development. “Now, if you take the best practices that exist today in the EU and transfer this knowledge to other parts that have similar soil or climatic conditions, then most of the European Union becomes greenish.”
Ultimately, the world’s food choices are made by consumers. While shoppers are increasingly conscious of environmental concerns, they often react more to narratives such as how particular products are helping farming communities. “What engages them is the positive story, not the negative,” said Francesco Tramontin, Director of External Affairs Europe at Mondelez International. “Sustainability will not be the driver for consumers, but it is important.”
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17.30 – 18.00 Welcome and registration of participants
18.00 – 19.00 Working towards a sustainable global food system
Tassos Haniotis / Director of Economic Analysis, Perspectives and Evaluations at the European Commission Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development
Robert Horster / Trading Director of the Europe Refined Oils Division at Cargill
Francesco Tramontin / Director of External Affairs Europe at Mondelez International
Hans van Meijl / Research Director in food security and bio-based economy at Wageningen University and Project Coordinator of FOODSECURE
Shada Islam / Director of Policy at Friends of Europe
19.00 End of debate and networking cocktail
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