The future food system: the world on one plate?

Without even knowing it, you may experience food globalisation during breakfast. In the bread you eat, there may be corn that is produced in the corn belts of Canada. The orange juice you drink is probably made of oranges from Spain. And for your cup of coffee, berries may have been gathered in Africa, Asia or Latin America.  So in one meal you have probably eaten food that is produced in different regions all over the world.

Everyone eats, so everyone is involved in a food system. Countries need to analyse their food systems to identify areas for policy interventions to promote healthy diets, Dr. Anna Lartrey, Director of Nutrition at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) told those at a recent side event of the 43rd Committee on World Food Security (CFS).

What are food systems? Following the FAO definition, a food system encompassess all the stages of keeping us fed: growing, harvesting, packing, processing, transforming, marketing, consuming and disposing of food. The most common food system is the agro-industrial food system that is global. It is dominated by a few multinational corporations through vertical integration.  This is a very complex system with a long supply chain and it has a lot of processed foods.

Besides the global food system there are also local and regional food systems. Dr. James Garret, from Bioversity International, and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, referred to the importance of local food systems during this side event.

What is local food? Local food has a geographic connotation. Actually, there is no generally accepted definition for the term local. There is no consensus on the distance between production and consumption. Local food systems differ from global systems because they contain a short supply chain, minimally processed food supplied by local farmers, and local consumption.

So the question arises: which food system is needed for a healthy and sustainable diet? Actually, every food system has the capacity to produce healthy food needed for good nutrition. Policy decisions should take into account food system variation.

As the FAO states : “Food systems need to be repositioned: from feeding people to nourishing people well”.

Blogpost by Myriam Welvaert, #CFS43 Social Reporter – myriam.welvaert(at)

Photo courtesy "End World Hunger"

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.



20/10/2016 5:30


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