The State of Food and Agriculture 2013
As the world debates the Post-2015 Development Agenda, we must strive for nothing less than the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. The social and economic costs of malnutrition are unconscionably high, amounting to perhaps $US3.5 trillion per year or $US500 per person globally. Maternal and child malnutrition still impose a larger burden than overweight and obesity, although the latter is increasing even in developing regions. The challenge for the global community, therefore, is to continue fighting hunger and undernutrition while preventing or reversing the emergence of obesity. This edition of The State of Food and Agriculture: Food systems for better nutrition makes the case that good nutrition begins with food and agriculture. Food systems around the world are diverse and changing rapidly. Food systems have become more industrial, commercial and global, unleashing processes of productivity growth, economic development and social transformation being felt around the world. These processes have profound implications for diets and nutritional outcomes. Commercialization and specialization in agricultural production, processing and retailing have enhanced efficiency throughout the food system and increased the year-round availability and affordability of a diverse range of foods for most consumers in the world. At the same time, concerns are mounting about the sustainability of current consumption and production patterns, and their implications for nutritional outcomes. Food systems must ensure that all people have access to a diverse range of nutritious foods and to the knowledge and information they need to make healthy choices. The contributions of food and agriculture to nutritional outcomes through production, prices and incomes are fundamental and must not be neglected, but food systems as a whole can contribute much more. This report identifies a number of specific actions that can be taken to improve the contribution of food systems to better nutrition. At the same time, reductions in food and nutrient losses throughout the food system can enhance both environmental sustainability and nutrition. Food system strategies for nutrition are often contrasted with those that rely on medically based interventions such as vitamin and mineral supplements. Although food supplements can address specific dietary deficiencies, a nutritious diet ensures that people get the whole complex of nutrients they need and thus is the only approach that addresses all forms of malnutrition. What is more, food system strategies further recognize the social, psychological and cultural benefits that come from enjoying a variety of foods. Malnutrition is a complex problem that requires integrated action across sectors, but good nutrition must begin with food and agriculture. This report helps point the way.