From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : UNFSS 2021
Mains level : Paper 3- Reimagining food system
The first and historic United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) 2021 was held in September this year.
Significance of food system transformation
- Global food systems are the networks that are needed to produce and transform food, and ensure it reaches consumers, or the paths that food travels from production to plate.
- Global food systems are in a state of crisis in many countries affecting the poor and the vulnerable.
- In terms of larger goals, the food system transformation is considered essential in achieving the sustainable development agenda 2030.
- This makes strong sense as 11 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) out of 17 are directly related to the food system.
Achievements of the Food Systems Summit
- The summit created a mechanism for serious debates involving UN member states, civil society, non-governmental organisations, academics, researchers, individuals, and the private sector.
- The debate and response focused on five identified action tracks namely: Ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all; Shift to sustainable consumption patterns; Boost nature-positive production; Advance equitable livelihoods, and Build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks, and stress.
- The Statement of Action emerging from the summit offers a concise set of ambitious, high-level principles and areas for action to support the global call to “Build back better” after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lessons from India’s experience with food systems
- India’s long journey from food shortage to surplus food producer offers several lessons for other developing countries.
- The learnings encompassed elements of nutritional health, food safety and standards, sustainability, deployment of space technology, and the like.
- Safety nets: One of India’s greatest contributions to equity in food is its National Food Security Act 2013 that anchors the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the Mid-Day meals (MDM), and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS).
- Today, India’s food safety nets collectively reach over a billion people.
- Food safety nets and inclusion are linked with public procurement and buffer stock policy.
- Challenge of climate change: Climate change and unsustainable use of land and water resources are the most formidable challenges food systems face today.
- The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report has set the alarm bells ringing, highlighting the urgency to act now.
- Nutrition and food diversity: Dietary diversity, nutrition, and related health outcomes are another area of concern as a focus on rice and wheat has created nutritional challenges of its own.
- India has taken a bold decision to fortify rice supplied through the Public Distribution System with iron.
- Low nutrition: Despite being a net exporter and food surplus country at the aggregate level, India has a 50% higher prevalence of undernutrition compared to the world average.
- But the proportion of the undernourished population declined from 21.6% during 2004-06 to 15.4% during 2018-20.
- Food wastage: Reducing food wastage or loss of food is a mammoth challenge and is linked to the efficiency of the food supply chain. Food wastage in India exceeds ₹1-lakh crore.
Need to eliminate hunger
- ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’ report, estimates that around a tenth of the global population was undernourished last year.
- Hunger and food insecurity are key drivers of conflict and instability across the world.
- The Nobel Peace Prize 2020 conferred on the United Nations WFP highlighted the importance of addressing hunger to prevent conflicts and create stability.
- Collaboration: We must collaborate to invest, innovate, and create lasting solutions in sustainable agriculture contribution to equitable livelihood, food security, and nutrition.
- Lessons from India: India has so much to offer from its successes, and learning also, to prepare itself for the next 20 to 30 years.
- There is a need to reimagining the food system towards the goal of balancing growth and sustainability, mitigating climate change, ensuring healthy, safe, quality, and affordable food, maintaining biodiversity, improving resilience, and offering an attractive income and work environment to smallholders and youth.
We are on the cusp of a transformation to make the world free of hunger by 2030 and deliver promises for SDGs, with strong cooperation and partnership between governments, citizens, civil society organisations, and the private sector.