The report Opportunities for future research and innovation on food and nutrition security and agriculture: The InterAcademy Partnership's global perspective was published by InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) in late November 2018.
The current approach to food, nutrition, agriculture and the environment is unsustainable and must change. There is no time to waste, say the 130 national academies of science and medicine across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe that compose the InterAcademy Partnership. In the foreground to COP24, the authors call for an end to business-as-usual and urge leaders to look to science to drive innovation and inform policy.
The report is meant as a wake-up call to leaders, according to Professor Joachim von Braun, Co-Chair of the IAP project on Food and Nutrition Security and Agriculture, President of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and Director of the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn, Germany.
According to the authors, there is an urgent need to strengthen evidence-based policies and programmes and invest in solving the most critical challenges of our times: mitigating climate change through changes to food production and consumption, and ensuring that people globally have access to nutritious, affordable and environmentally sustainable food.
Recommendations to meet the most critical challenges:
• Climate-smart food systems:
The InterAcademy Partnership urges a shift to climate-smart food systems. At the same time, limiting agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions alone will be insufficient to address food systems’ impact on climate change.
• Incentives for consumers to change their diets:
There need to be incentives – informed by evidence – for people to improve their diets, both for public health – including obesity and nutrition – and for the environment. Policymakers need to understand the drivers of demand and find ways to change consumer behaviour, including the acceptance of innovative foods and innovative diets. Policymakers also need to help consumers understand and weigh the environmental implications of food choices. Reducing food waste should be prioritised, too: it is a major opportunity with significant benefits for climate and the environment.
• Innovative foods:
There must be ambitious efforts by policymakers and other leaders to influence consumer behaviours that produce greenhouse gas emissions. Changing dietary consumption could bring co-benefits to health and climate, such as reducing meat consumption in some regions like Europe or increasing innovative foods and diets. Examples of innovative foods include meat–mushroom mixes, lab-grown meat, algae, and appealing insect-based foods.
• Collaboration between natural science and social science:
Research needs to be translated into applied innovation, but this will require stronger connections across disciplines and with cutting-edge technologies, science education, training and outreach. Life sciences and basic research must cooperate much more closely with social science and policy research on food, nutrition and agriculture.
• New international science advisory mechanism:
IAP advises creating an international advisory panel on food and nutrition security and agriculture, to include participation by academies and to strengthen international governance mechanisms.