Re: Nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems

Dr. Corinna Hawkes United Kingdom

A critical issue for this online discussion forum is that the food system is an under-recognised domain for policy actions to promote higher quality diets for NCD prevention. Food systems are important for a whole host of reasons. Three of the most critical are that:

  • Policies implemented to promote healthy diets have repercussions upstream for the actors and activities in the agriculture and food systems. Due attention thus needs to be paid to anticipating/pre-empting perverse response.
  • Likewise, agrifood policies have repercussions downstream policies to promote healthy eating – their influence on food availability, affordability and acceptability may reinforce or undermine them.
  • There are a range of policy actions that can be implemented with the explicit intention of leveraging agriculture and food systems to improve dietary quality by influencing food availability, affordability and acceptability.

Yet to date, most actions in food systems to improve diet quality have been made in short food supply chains in the context of undernutrition. Interventions have also been limited to discrete parts of the supply chain. Rarely have approaches considered the long, more complex, often globalised, chains relevant to NCD prevention, nor had the objective of ensuring the whole supply chain is operating synergistically to achieve desired goals. This is ignoring the huge potential that levering long chains has to effect improvements for dietary quality and NCD prevention at the level of populations.

The process of levering long chains is going to require “policy coherence” i.e., the systematic promotion of mutually reinforcing policy actions across government departments and agencies creating synergies towards achieving the agreed objectives.

These points are further elaborated in the paper “Leveraging agriculture and food systems for healthier diets and noncommunicable disease prevention: the need for policy coherence” at: http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/agn/pdf/HawkesICN2paper_Jul1.pdf