Lack of healthy food on the one hand and excessive consumption and food wastage on the other are harming the planet.
Photo: Jochen Dürr/ZEF

Focusing on food security and sustainability

The number of undernourished people is increasing world-wide, which is why a team of scientists have called for a global concentration of scientific research, more research funding and an international committee on food security and agriculture that would prepare political decisions.

There are more and more undernourished people throughout the world, and over two billion people are suffering from an insufficient supply of micro-nutrients. Infant mortality rates are unacceptably high. Against this background, academic efforts to tackle the issue have to be concentrated, and an international committee for food security and agriculture that would prepare political decisions is required, maintain Joachim von Braun of Bonn University/Germany, Robin Fears of the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) and Volker ter Meulen, President of the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) in the specialist journal Science Advances.

The researchers explain that a lack of healthy food and poorly managed agricultural systems on the one hand and excessive consumption and wasting of food on the other are harming the planet and represent “an unprecedented threat to global food security”. Leading politicians world-wide have already begun to recognise the challenges, they say.

Academies of science, medicine and technology recently joined forces in the global InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) network. One IAP project is working towards bringing together the interfaces of food security and global environmental health. The organisation is getting networks of experts from Africa, Asia, America and Europe to analyse food systems against the background of global environmental change.

Investment in research infrastructure

The authors point to the urgent need for investment in research infrastructure in order to obtain reliable data on the health status of the population, nutrition, farming practices, climate change, ecosystems, sustainability and human behaviour. The political decision-makers ought to see to it that agricultural and dietetics research funding is increased.

They say that while a large amount of scientific insight has already been established regarding food and hunger, it is necessary to fill knowledge gaps with enhanced international collaboration. This would also include social science issues such as how the behaviour of consumers and farmers can be transformed and crops can be introduced that have so far been neglected. Research results would have to be coherently integrated with regard to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well.

The authors propose an international committee for food security and agriculture that would focus on preparing political decisions. “Such a committee would be able to rely on the large scientific community this is associated with and could address the most important food and agriculture issues,” the scientists write. Its tasks would range from the issue of how food and environmental targets can be balanced to analysing how consumers can be motivated to adopt healthy and sustainable diets.


Original publication:

R. Fears, V. ter Meulen, J. von Braun, Global food and nutrition security needs more and new science. Sci. Adv. 5, eaba2946 (2019), DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba2946

More information on the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP)

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