Food systems need transformation or it could be 'disastrous for humanity': Lancet report

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

How can food systems improve?

Related tags Food UN

Food systems urgently need to be transformed to provide equitable access to healthy diets produced in sustainable and resilient ways, according to an article published in the Lancet online.

Leaders from the Johns Hopkins University, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), have joined forces in expressing a strong call to action for food and health communities to work together.

The article said that food systems are interconnected with regards to global challenges such as hunger, climate change, poverty, and inequality and the continuation of current trends is nearly guaranteed to be “disastrous for humanity”.​ 

It said that food systems are contributing to further environmental degradation that undermines the future continuity of food production and its quality and threatens human health. 

Health systems

The article said: “Health systems and food systems are deeply connected to one another. There is no better example than the COVID-19 pandemic: a health systems shock that most likely originated as a zoonotic spillover event, and which reverberated throughout not only food systems, but social, education, and economic systems, and even affected the environment through changes in transportation, energy use patterns, and seismic noise.”

Jessica Fanzo, director, Johns Hopkins Global Food Ethics and Policy Program said: “It is imperative that our health sectors and health partners join us in transforming the food systems for those that are undernourished, particularly older, vulnerable and marginalised people.” 

Healthy Diet

She continues: “To have a healthy planet, we need everyone to have a healthy diet.” 

Talking about how health systems and food systems are deeply interconnected, Lawrence Haddad, executive director of GAIN and 2018 World Food Prize Laureate, said: “We already know that good nutrition is the foundation for a healthy life, which in turn leads to healthy and thriving communities. 

“By working together and combining our knowledge there is a real opportunity now to support the transformation of food systems, securing healthy and nutritious diets for all.”

The article said that as the UN convenes a Food Systems Summit, this is a “momentous occasion”​ and the first time in history that the governments of the world are addressing food from a whole systems perspective. 

Haddad adds: “Transforming food systems requires all hands on deck from all the stakeholders to achieve both safe, nutritious and healthy food for all. The Food Systems Summit and its related events such as the ‘Youth is the Future’ event and ‘Zero Hunger Private Sector Pledge’ are key to achieving this."

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