Posted By in AgriProFocus Netherlands
Posted 14 August 2018 at 12:38

There can be no sustainable development without profound changes in food systems

08/08/2018 - Press release

Food systems are situated at the crossroads between the many issues and contradictions surrounding sustainable development: food and nutritional security, human and ecosystem health, natural resource renewal, climate change, territorial dynamics, political stability, and social justice. An international group of experts, including researchers from CIRAD, is calling for profound changes in food systems in order to meet the sustainable development goals (SDGs) set by the UN in 2015, and the terms of the Paris Agreement on climate. The authors propose a four-pillar strategy.


"There can be no sustainable development without profound changes in food systems". This call for change was issued by an international group of experts dubbed the "Milano Group" (see box), whose members have written an article published in the journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development.

Agriculture, the world's biggest employer

Food systems are not just vital for achieving SDG2 ("Zero hunger"); they concern the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Since agriculture is the world's main source of employment, investing in it is considered twice as effective at alleviating poverty than investing in any other sector. Farming practices are closely linked to ecosystem health, natural resource diversity and renewal, and climate change. Lastly, food insecurity and rural poverty are often the root cause of political instability, conflict and migration.

"We need to totally transform food systems"

While the overriding priority for agriculture was for a long time to increase production, this century has brought very different issues. For Patrick Caron, the lead author of the article, a researcher with CIRAD and Chair of the United Nations High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition, "We need to implement a comprehensive transformation in food systems, centring on different paradigms and models from those of the 20th century". This call for profound change was prompted by the Milano Group's discussions, which gave rise to a proposed four-pillar strategy:

- Drastic changes in consumption patterns, with a shift towards healthy eating

- Ensuring that agricultural production and food supply chains play a greater role in sustainable development

- Mitigating climate change by means of new farming practices

- A package of operations aimed at rejuvenating rural territories.

Renewing governance of food systems

These changes will not happen on their own. The transformation will hinge on renewing food system governance, giving priority to human development and food and nutritional security, rational resource management, ecosystem health, and fairer development and consumption models. This means adopting new ways of designing, planning and managing programmes to support production, consumption, innovation and rural development.


This is a press release from CIRAD. If you want to keep reading, follow this link