I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this process and begin by expressing gratitude for the contributions of those, including FIAN International, calling for the Accord to be grounded in the right to food.
1. Do you have any general comments on the draft political declaration and its vision (paragraphs 1-3 of the zero draft)?
Concerning prevalence of undernourishment. Please note that the “prevalence of undernourishment,” referred to here, captures only severe caloric deficiency lasting longer than a year. Thus this measure – which is the only hunger number the public typically receives -- does not capture the extent of undernourishment. I encourage the ICN2 to challenge and clear up this confusing use of terms and the definitions. One solution is to call this measurement “prevalence of long-term caloric deficiency.” (PLCD)
Moreover, another advantage of such a change is that it could clear up significant confusion: To most people, “nourishment” and “nutrition” are interchangeable. So the public may be bewildered by the two terms having very different meanings in FAO terminology – with “undernourishment” meaning calorie deficiency, from which recovery is often possible, and “undernutrition” meaning stunting, carrying life-long harm.
Concerning stunting. The Zero Draft notes that stunting “has declined but still affected 162 million children under 5 in 2012.” This presentation is of concern for a number of reasons. First, noting children that are affected by stunting, without clarifying that it is a lifelong burden contributing to disease and developmental challenges, could lead some reading this document to assume one can outgrow stunting. Second, the absolute number of children fails to communicate the vast extent of stunting: The UNICEF estimate is that one in four of the world’s children is stunted. However, since stunting is not a condition that one outgrows, and assuming that stunting has not suddenly increased significantly, the portion affected should effectively be considered as that of an entire population. In other words, we should be talking about a quarter of the world’s entire population harmed by stunting. Third, I suggest that the ICN2 highlight the fact that the extent of stunting does not correlate with the prevalence of undernourishment, which should raise questions about the usefulness of continuing to use caloric deficiency as the almost exclusive measure of “hunger.” Additionally, because stunting estimates include actual measurements of children (unlike the prevalence of undernourishment arrived at primarily from estimates of accessibility) it could be a more accurate reflection of the crisis of hunger.
Concerning dietary diversity. The draft notes that: “The evolution of food (including agricultural) systems -- with innovations in production, manufacturing, storage and distribution – has led to enhanced dietary diversity, greater consumption of vegetables and fruit, as well as meat and dairy, in developing countries, although benefits have been uneven.” However, given worsening NCD statistics throughout the world, including the developing world, this statement seems confusing. Earlier the draft notes that micronutrient deficiencies “have not improved,” which seems to contradict this increased diversity, presented here as positive. My observation is that the human diet is becoming less and less diverse, with severe negative consequences. An example: The increase in diabetes and other NCD in southern India are linked to reduced diversity: more polished white rice (lacking nutrition and with high glycemic index) and processed foods replacing nutritious diverse millets and family gardens.
Concerning reference to food system as “unable.” The statement that the “food system is still unable to provide safe and nutritious food for all” is troubling. “Unable” implies lack of capacity. Yet there is vast proof of our capacity to achieve this goal. My understanding is that our problem is not capacity. It is that the food system is still organized by anti-democratic economic rules that exclude vast numbers of us, and thus deny safe and nutritious food for all.
2. Do you have any comments on the background and analysis provided in the political declaration (paragraphs 4-20 of the zero draft)?
Concerning food as a human right. The draft calls on signers to “recall” the International Covenant to “support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food…” I am surprised that, given growing world attention to the food-as-a-human-right framework, this draft does not continue to build this understanding and premise and use it as the touchstone throughout the document. This point seems especially important now that we have evidence of the usefulness of the right to food framework as an organizing principle for both government and civil society actions (and collaborations), as in the case of Brazil. I am puzzled by the use of the term “recall” to open the paragraph when other paragraphs begin with relatively strong verbs such as “reaffirm.”
Concerning food waste. Here is the only mention of food waste, and it appears at the very bottom of a paragraph about sustainable (“ecologically sensitive farming practices”) food production and processing. Thus, it could easily be lost. However, reducing vast food waste (one-third of all food) is a pathway to greater supply, potentially addressing hunger without increasing food production that necessarily carries environmental and climate change costs. I strongly encourage the ICN2 to highlight that such waste must be addressed at its deeper roots: the poverty of farmers lacking means to prevent loss, along with food distribution and processing systems that are allowed to exacerbate the problem.