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Consultas electrónicas abiertas del HLPE

Re: Nutrition and Food Systems - HLPE consultation on the V0 draft of the Report

Corrado FinardiCorrado Finardi
Corrado FinardiCorrado FinardiColdirettiColdiretti

Comments by Corrado Finardi PhD- Coldiretti Italian Farmers Union –University of Parma- food Sciences Dept.- Lecturer

I thank FAO to give the opportunity to contribute at an early stage to this purposeful document, which allows a progression of terms, visual and insights onto the current and coming food systems.  While a number of drifts are apparent out there- such as climatic change, nutrition transition – i.e.,  to animal protein and fats in developing countries, to vegetable- based diets in Western ones-,

Transnational institutions experiment a number of challenges due to several factors. In particular, geopolitical instability and turmoil in wide parts of the planet; the uncertain recourse to trade agreements on a bilateral basis as key feature of the new multilateralism; the coming back of some sort of world equilibrium, in amidst cold war scenario and multi-centric power allocation- all of these pose new questions to the prevalent and yet imperfect world food equilibrium and – most of all- framing of the possible solutions and interventions.

We provide hereinafter basically 2 kinds of suggestions, the first one more conceptual and the second one related to mere formal aspects. Eventually, we believe that a better overall glossary could help greatly in a correct framing of the problems at stake ad possible solutions.

Also we believe that the food value chains should be mirrored better in the risks they currently present: with less choice for consumers, more fragile food security and inherent biological hazards (ie, antimicrobial resistance, loss of biodiversity, spread of diseases at a faster pace due to commoditized food chains, etc).

In particular, the merges and acquisitions process by huge transnational structures, which is on-going, pose serious risks in terms of food safety and food security governance- risks for which there is a lack of tools (political, institutional and economical) for proportionate contrast.


Line 4 p. 9. “malnourished”. As we intend to comment further, this term without introduction or explanation at the very beginning, may create confusion and it seems not able to face different problems with different genesis and solutions. So we suggest a “In brackets” use of this word, if authors intend to continue using it (“malnourished” encompasses very divergent problems such as lack of energy intake and excess of; or the mix between excesses of caloric intake and micronutrients deficiency).

Footnote1 p. 9. And line 2 p. 9. We hence question the usefulness and conceptual validity of the term “malnutrition” which is comprehensive of a wide array of phenomena needing different tools for solution. In fact, equaling overweight and obesity to micronutrient deficiency or lack of enough energy intake is somehow problematic in our perspective and does not help addressing the issues at stake, the way they develop, the reasons-why, and may  offer limited clues in further problem solving.  So we propose to better clarify or reformulate the initial period “Malnutrition in all its forms” in order to reach an overall clarity, better without explanatory footnotes.

Line 10 p. 9 we suggest to refer expressly to “unhealthy food environments”, since it is going to be better explained in the glossary and it Is a key concept in relation to the draft document.

Line 10 p. 9 it may need attention the “poor diets” wording, which suggest exclusively a lack of micro-macro nutrients or energy and not an overall disequilibrium or lack of variety of the diets as such.

“Unpaired” diets may work better (?)

Line 15 p.11.

Definition 1 Food System

We propose the different wording

“A food system consists of all the elements (environment,rural territories and landscape people, inputs, processes, knowledge and technology, infrastructures and environmental facilities institutions, etc) and activities that relate to the production, processing, distribution, preparation and consumption of food, and the outcomes of these activities, namely nutrition and health status, socio-economic growth and equity and environmental sustainability.

Food systems encompass also the cultural framing and promotion (i.e., marketing) of food in order to make it acceptable and perfectly legitimate in any given context.”

Rationale for consideration: under Food System definition, we suggest a different use of “environment”, due to the ambiguity it may bring due to its reference to landscape, territory, and other anthropic factors. Also, it needs proper consideration that under Definition 3- “Food environments” a definition of “environment is provided. To provide clarity we believe that an unambiguous use of wording should be used whenever possible- hence generic terms such as “environmental” should be avoided.

Line 21 p. 11

We propose the different wording

“A sustainable food system (SFS) is a food system that ensures food security and balanced nutrition for all and everywhere in such a way that economic, institutional, social and environmental bases to generate food security and nutrition of future generations are not compromised”.

Rationale for consideration: Institutions and capacity building are key to achieve a correct understanding of how food systems operate, and to ameliorate the overall status of sustainability in all its features.

 Line 25 p. 11 Definition 3 Food environments

We propose the different wording

“Food environments refer to the physical, economic, policy, institutional and socio-cultural surroundings, opportunities and conditions that influence food choices and nutritional status (…)…”

Rationale for consideration: here again we feel useful to insert “institutional”, while “policy” as a particular feature under the wider institutional framing.

Line 1 p. 12 Definition 4 Diets

We propose the different formula

“Diets comprise the individual foods that a person consumes on a given day, week or onth, in a habitual way that forms a dietary pattern refer to a habitual way by which the individual foods enter dietary patterns on a continuous temporal basis (day, week, or month). Diets that are considered nutritious and sustainable are those with lower environmental impacts and contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations.

Diets depend not only on food (mixes) but also on ways of processing, transforming, cooking, preserving and storing, as well as serving foods, along with the cultural dimension of sharing meals (conviviality)”.

Rationale for consideration: the ancient Grecian word for “diet” (diaita) refers primarily to the habit under which foods are consumed, more than on individual foods in themselves. It implies not only a social dimension but also a prevalent aspect of combining foods.

Line 21-24 p. 12

Under the enumeration of the numerous factors affecting food systems, still lack the “insitutions” which is indeed a different feature from “political” and “economic”. It could be helpful to add it.

Line 14-18 p. 13. The contributions of Francisco Varela, Humberto Maturana, and more on the sociological side, Niklas Luhmann, (Soziale Systeme - 1984) can be added to explain the interaction across systems and mutual perturbation.

p. 14 graph.-FIGURE 1

To our limited understanding a better highlighting of the features of marketing under “food acceptability and preferences” in turn under “Food Environments” is desirable.

Under Food Environments also, under “information and guidelines” it could be nuanced the difference between public and private ones (i.e, public health authorities or instead, voluntary private guidelines or messages even in the shape of “demi-marketing”).

p. 15 ll. 28 and fw. We propose to reformulate as follows “Innovation is generated through research, but also by less visible enginees such as gradual improvement, technological spillover from other domains, rate of adoption of parallel technologies, shaping the anthropic environment. Also the cultural dimension, habits and uses have a role in favoring innovation adoption “

p. 15 ll 40 to 48. We suggest to add the “institutional drivers” in the paragraph title and at ll.40, “Political, economic and more broadly, institutional drivers…”

In fact, “institutions” are a bundle of shared societal expectations driving behaviors and take the form of norms, prescribed courses of action-habits, as well as other consensual procedures to allocate resources, power and goods. Basically (sociological thinking considers) institutions as norms to behave in a predictable manner and geared inside formalized structures

p- 18 ll. 43, “Food Environments”, at ll. 46, we suggest to include also “citizens” as key to define “food environments”. In fact, citizens increasingly may shape food environments, for instance by social media, blogging, on line polls and surveys, (ie, In fact, since food requires a wider institutional framework inside which is “made available and accessible”, also citizens may have a clear role in shaping food environment, and not only as consumers.

p.19 ll 27 and fw. It seems it lacks a clear explanation of the ultimate goal of the FBDGs. Examples aslo could help.