From farm to fork: sustainability every step of the way

"Sustainable, healthy diets are good for people and good for the planet"

For me, that was the key message of the side event I attended this week on “Ensuring nutritious diets in a climate constrained world”, during the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). 

The side event was organised by the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN), in collaboration with the Government of Brazil, the Government of Costa Rica and the University of Copenhagen. The discussion focused on the impacts that sustainable healthy diets can have not only on human health, but also on the wellbeing of our planet.

As we often heard during the first days of the CFS, food insecurity and undernutrition will increase with global warming, but at the same time what and how much we eat is affecting the environment through food production systems. To protect the health of people and of our planet, we need to change the way we produce and consume food. All stages of the food system, from production to intake, from farm to fork, need to be analyzed in terms of both sustainability and health.

Ok, clear…but what exactly is a sustainable, healthy diet?

According to Dr. Liv Elin Torheim, Professor of Public Health Nutrition at Oslo and Akershus University College, the answer is easy. “In most cases, what is healthy goes hand in hand with what is sustainable.” The rules are: eat a varied and plant based diet; balance energy intake with energy need; limit consumption of foods high in fat, sugar or salt and low in micronutrients; drink water; and reduce food waste.

In recent years, many countries have developed food-based dietary guidelines, focusing mainly on health but with little attention to sustainability. Dietary guidelines should not only tell the consumer what to eat, they should also be used to inform food and agricultural policies on what food should be produced, processed and sold.  Dietary guidelines should provide the “food vision” for a country, across all relevant sectors. Such guidelines should be developed in each country and be adapted to each specific context: we all have different nutrition challenges, different food cultures and different food production systems that should be respected.

According to a study commissioned by the FAO, there are currently only four countries that have taken account of environmental sustainability in their dietary guidelines:  Germany, Brazil, Sweden and Qatar.

Clearly, this is not an easy task and there are so many interests at stake, but governments have a moral obligation to both support the right of their citizens to adequate food and to protect the environment for future generations.

Blogpost by Alessandra Mora, #CFS43 Social Reporter – ([email protected])

Photo Credit: FAO

This post is part of the live coverage during the 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.


19/10/2016 20:38


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