Working Towards a Sustainable Global Food System
MARCH 17, 2023
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The Global Food System, the production, processing, and distribution of food throughout the world. A system that ensures sufficient food for all and alleviates malnutrition by enhancing food availability, accessibility, utilization, and stability through trade. Nevertheless, numerous regions worldwide still face challenges in obtaining nutritious and easily accessible food, leading to an inequitable system.

What are the challenges currently facing the Global Food System? Despite the United Nation’s assertion that there is enough food for every individual to lead a nutritious life, approximately 842 million people suffer from hunger annually, while 1.5 billion are overweight or obese. Furthermore, about one-third of the world's food is wasted before consumption, with much of it being spoiled and forgotten by customers in developed countries, while in developing countries, food waste occurs due to a lack of resources for proper storage and distribution. This disparity underscores the differences in how food is circulated globally. Additionally, food prices have been rising exponentially, with the United Nations Food Price Index almost doubling in less than a year in 2008 before crashing in 2009, followed by spikes in 2010 and 2011. According to Canada's Food Report, there will be a 5% to 7% overall increase in food prices in the coming year, the most substantial predicted increase since the report's inception twelve years ago. Dairy and restaurant prices are expected to rise the most, at 6% to 8%, followed by bakery and vegetable prices at 5% to 7%.

In the face of a growing population and increased demand for food, how can we ensure the sustainability of the Global Food System for all? Metabolic's analysis offers four possible courses of action. Firstly, the system must possess adaptive capacity and resilience in both its biophysical and socioeconomic aspects. This can be achieved through biodiversity preservation, maintaining healthy soil systems, preserving water bodies' buffering capacity, knowledge transfer, organizational capacity development, and poverty cycle elimination. Secondly, reducing overall food demand (e.g., by minimizing food waste), shifting towards less resource-intensive food sources, prioritizing scarce resources (land, water) for food production, enhancing economic access to food, and boosting farmer productivity in developing countries. Thirdly, minimizing the impact of current agricultural and extractive practices (e.g., conservation measures, lower-impact fishing techniques), limiting system expansion and intensification, and investing in new sustainable agricultural techniques (e.g., organic cultivars, agro-ecological practices). Finally, ensuring that the food system supports livelihoods and wellbeing by addressing systemic structures that perpetuate poverty is crucial to achieving a sustainable and resilient food system.

Action is necessary to ensure the long-term resilience of the Global Food System. A system that supports every individual in the world by providing them with access to nutritious food, while also working towards sustainability to safeguard the planet's health. Achieving this will require concerted efforts and collaboration among governments, organizations, businesses, and individuals worldwide. It will involve implementing policies and practices that prioritize sustainable food production, distribution, and consumption, reducing food waste, supporting small-scale farmers, and promoting agroecological approaches. Additionally, investing in research and innovation to develop new technologies and practices that enhance the sustainability and resilience of the food system will be crucial. By working together, we can build a food system that is equitable, sustainable, and resilient, ensuring that everyone has access to the nutritious food they need, both now and in the future.