By 2050, the global human population is expected to exceed nine billion. Currently, 12.5% of the global population, or one in eight people, are undernourished – the vast majority of whom live in developing countries, where the prevalence of undernourishment is estimated at 14.9%. With the global demand for food, feed and fibre set to nearly double, there is an urgency about how to feed the world. Producing 70% more food for an additional 2.3 billion people by 2050 while combating poverty and hunger; using scarce natural resources more efficiently and adapting to climate change are the main challenges facing world agriculture.
Responding to these challenges will take investments in innovation, research and development, in affordable technologies and in smallholder farmers, who are essential to stable, productive and equitable agricultural development. In many regions fewer people will be living in rural areas and even fewer will be farmers. Making farms more productive and more resilient through sustainable intensification systems ‐ increasing crop yields with improved nutrition levels and resistance to disease and climate change, while using less water, pesticides and fertilizers and lowering greenhouse gas emissions is critical.
Such enormous tasks cannot be faced without a true partnership involving governments, academic and scientific communities, non-governmental organizations, communities, farmers as well as the food industry itself. Policies and practices aimed at advancing the goals of sustainable agriculture, improving the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, securing the stability of rural communities and helping ensure the future of the world’s food supply certainly cannot be implemented without a proper involvement also of the food industry.
As the World Health Organization Global Strategy on Physical Activity and Health suggests, reducing the risk factors for chronic disease on a global basis will demand collaboration among many different groups. The success of the Global Strategy can only be based on a comprehensive approach with active participation by all involved, including government, the food and beverage industry, civil society and other public- and private-sector stakeholders.
The UN Declaration of 16 September 2011 on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/66/L.1 ):
- recognizes “the need for the efforts and engagement of all sectors of society to generate effective responses for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases”;
- acknowledges “the contribution and important role played by all relevant stakeholders, including, where and as appropriate, the private sector and industry, in support of national efforts for non-communicable disease prevention and control”;
- commits to “advance the implementation of multi-sectoral, cost-effective, population-wide interventions in order to reduce the impact of the common non-communicable disease risk factors”;
- commits to “develop, strengthen and implement multi-sectoral public policies and action plans to promote health education and health literacy, including through evidence-based education and information strategies and programmes in and out of schools, and through public awareness campaigns”.
To sum up:
1) the Food Industry is an essential partner to help reach the goal of an improved nutrition worldwide and, therefore, it should be properly involved in a whole-of-society effort towards reaching such a goal. Of course, proper “rules of engagement” could usefully be defined for such an involvement.
2) The best way to improve nutrition is not through regulations and restrictions, but rather through nutrition education and literacy, especially through evidence-based education and information strategies and programmes (in and out of schools) and targeted public awareness campaigns.
3) Multi-sectoral, cost-effective, population-wide interventions should be the preferred tool to be used. As an example, please refer to the EPODE experience: http://www.epode-european-network.com/ and http://www.epode-international-network.com/