The world’s food systems faces a set of interlinked challenges, needing to realise the right to food for a growing global population, achieve the internationally agreed targets of the Paris Agreement, and stay within the planet’s environmental limits. At present food systems are part of the problem, causing or contributing to a host of environmental and social crises - including massive soil loss; water pollution with nitrogen, phosphorus, and a range of toxic chemicals; air pollution from confined animal feeding operations; species loss as new, biodiverse areas are put under the plough; 24% of total atmospheric CO2 additions annually; sub-living wages and high-risk jobs. Yet they can be part of the solution if we move beyond the current policy stasis to develop comprehensive, wide-ranging and truly transformative food system policy change.
The present environmental and social challenge is especially acute when it comes to the need for equitable action to avoid the looming climate crisis, inarguably the greatest challenge that has faced modern humankind. But tackling such a systemic challenge poses particular difficulties: when every area of life is implicated, where do we start? In this new paper, the authors argue that the starting point for analysis, action agenda development, policy development, and rapid implementation should be the food that people eat – and the food they don’t eat – on a national level. An approach that begins with dietary patterns supports policies aimed at changing both the demand and supply sides of food consumption patterns.
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