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Our take in the media: Innovation for food

Experts' corner - 10.02.2021

This opinion article by Juan Carlos García y Cebolla, Right to Food Team Leader, and Mr. Jingyuan Xia, IPPC Office-in -Charge, was published in El Pais (in Spanish) on Tuesday, 9 February 2021.


A year ago, we still could not suspect the seriousness of the crisis that was upon us. The response to the pandemic has unleashed an unprecedented mobilization of resources that includes stimulus packages worth close to 10 trillion euros globally. Of these, just over 6 percent correspond to social protection measures that have cushioned the impact on the right to food of large population groups, who have seen their incomes diminish or disappear, and have allowed the continuity of the food systems whose flows have been fairly stable. The latest estimates indicate that the world economy has contracted in the order of 4.3% in 2020, and that the population suffering from extreme poverty has grown by about 90 million people in 2020 and the undernourished population could have increased by nearly than 130 million people as a result of COVID19.

This week is the 47th plenary session of the World Committee on Food Security, which was scheduled to take place in October 2020. The pandemic forced a change in the calendar of many activities and entered its agenda. A central point of the plenary will be the discussion, eventual approval and adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition, an instrument that will provide policy guidance for a transition towards more sustainable and inclusive food systems. In parallel, debates will be opened with an eye on the response to the pandemic, exploring the synergies between a sustainable transformation and a way out of the crisis that considers the needs of small food producers and of the groups hardest hit by the crisis; an inclusive and gender-equitable response. Discussions that include the protection of the human right to adequate food for a sustainable food system.

The quality and power of the response will be decisive in reducing the suffering caused by the crisis. On this occasion, the short-term response has been much more powerful than in previous crises and we must congratulate ourselves for this. But, in addition, we need a response to exit the crisis that allows poverty and hunger to be rapidly reduced. If we do not adopt much more ambitious measures, in 2030 the population suffering from undernourishment could reach over 900 million people, returning to the levels of the end of the 20th century.

The transformation of food systems will also occupy the attention of countries in the coming months in preparation for a global summit on the matter, scheduled for September 2021. The crisis has shown the central role of food systems in economies and in the world. welfare of the population. Its environmental and social sustainability were pre-COVID challenges. The investments and changes necessary to ensure a better life for all present important areas of opportunity for a vigorous and sustainable exit from the crisis.

One area that may go unnoticed by the general public, but which will be crucial in this process, is plant health. 2020 was declared the International Year of Plant Health. Plant health is an area that has shown the ability of countries to work together and has contributed in a very important way to ensuring the world's food in the past decades. But it faces significant challenges both from the point of view of more sustainable and biodiversity-friendly solutions, as well as the challenges posed by climate change for plant protection. These challenges include the spread of different pests and diseases, as well as the greater vulnerability generated in many areas by the change in agroclimatic conditions and the stress they produce on plants.

The solution to these challenges offers a broad scope for a response that contributes to coming out of the crisis with force and preventing some of the most worrying risks that can put the right to food at risk for all.

To build this response we need to mobilize the capacity to innovate and the collaboration of all actors (governments, private sector, researchers, civil society ...). It is about innovating, not only technically, but also politically and socially, to carry out programs that make it easier for everyone to access this innovation, breaking down barriers and including small producers, indigenous peoples, and eliminating gaps in income. gender. As with the pandemic: if protection does not reach everyone, no one will be safe.


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