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Thursday 30 June 2022

‘Carrot and stick’ required for global food system overhaul

19th April 2021 By Bridget O'Connell | | @foodtickernz

Global food manufacturers need to be kept on a short policy leash if there is to be progress in overhauling the international food system for good, according to a new study.

Researchers from the World Wildlife Fund and non-profit innovation institution Worldfish looked at the drivers of previous large national shifts that have taken place in the global food system over the last 70 years.

These included increased consumption of milk, chicken, and the farmed fish Tilipia, which was now the fourth most commonly consumed type of seafood in the US.

The researchers concluded that co-ordinated, cross-sector policy, investment and innovation were all needed to push through any meaningful transformation of the global food system to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, because left to their own devices, major food companies prioritised profit over the environment.

“The current, modern global food system can be mobilised to deliver healthier, more sustainable diets, but only if there are strong public sector policies to ensure that private sector innovation in production, distribution, and marketing of food align with delivering these global public goods that are essential if we are to meet the SDGs,” co-lead author Dr Eddie Allison, WorldFish’s science and research interim director, said.

“In the recent past, major food companies have innovated towards cheaper, less healthy foods, with little consideration for environmental costs of production, packaging, and retail.

“The incentive mechanisms to direct their innovation towards meeting the SDG need to be identified and put into action.”

However, the researchers were positive that rapid uptake of new foods at large scales was possible with combined public policy leadership and private-sector technological innovation alongside consumers who culturally valued and could afford new foods.

The study’s lead author Dr. Emily Moberg, research lead specialist of markets institute at World Wildlife Fund, said: “Dramatic shifts in diet have taken place, but they took decades and the alignment of technological development, public policy and funding, and marketing and advertising pressure, and these all interacted with existing food culture.”

Moberg added this meant we needed to be “pro-active and coordinated if we want to effect change for contemporary diets at speed and scale”.

The UN’s SDG included eliminating global hunger, meeting carbon emissions targets and halting and reversing the degradation of land and water ecosystems.



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