Food Content Contention

From lowering salt and sugar content, to labelling fats in dairy products; the pressure is on for the food sector to find ways to better improve health. In a recent interview with James Thellusson of Glasshouse Partnership, we explore the pressures the food sector is facing in the policy arena, domestically and internationally.


Sustainability Changes Coming

A Green Growth Strategy for Food and Agriculture by the OECD says governments can avoid a conflict between growth and the environment if the right incentives are put in place. It’s sensible recommendations are highlighted in the synopsis below.

“With the world’s population expected to rise by a third between now and 2050, analysts estimate that an additional one billion tonnes of cereals and 200 million tonnes of meat would need to be produced annually between now and then to feed everyone.

The report identifies three priority areas where coherent action is required:

  1. Increase productivity in a sustainable way. If resources are used more efficiently throughout the supply chain, production can be increased and natural resources conserved. Higher priority needs to be given to research, development, innovation, education and information.

  2. Ensure that well functioning markets provide the right signals. Prices that reflect the scarcity value of natural resources as well as the environmental impact of farming will contribute to greater efficiency. Economically and environmentally harmful subsidies should be phased out. The "polluter pays" principle needs to be enforced through charges and regulations. Incentives should be provided for maintaining biodiversity and environmental services.

  3. Establish and enforce well-defined property rights. Over-exploitation can result when marine resources, land and forests lack clearly defined rights and ownership, the report says.
    Business as usual is not an option and adjustments to policies and practices will be needed. But in the longer term, the report adds, greener agriculture would reinforce environmental sustainability, economic growth and social well-being.”



Full report: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/38/10/48224529.pdf

G20

Agriculture is in desperate need of capital investment, especially to feed 10 billion people in 2050. After 30 years of underinvestment through removal of agricultural development funding and poor prices, there are now signals for farmers to do more.

As the G20 convenes, policy on food price volatility is top of mind. Price caps will fundamentally destroy any investment in agriculture – including by farmers themselves.

People should not be left to go hungry. Food security should be dealt with in social safety net structures that ensure the poorest get supplemental income to buy food. Sending the wrong signal to agriculture right now, could be counter productive.

G20

The first ever G20 agriculture ministers meeting will be held June 22-23. During this meeting and the G20 Leaders meeting in May, food price volatility will be top of mind. Hosted by the French government, there is concerns about excessive price volatility and speculation. Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of Agriculture, was cited in a UN press release noting: “Demand (for food) would continue to rise exponentially, while production would only increase mathematically, owing to climate change, the conversion of lands to other uses and other factors. In 2010, 40 million people had suffered from hunger and it would only get worse, he said, noting that increasing production was just barely keeping up with rising demand. One climatic event, such as flooding in the Russian Federation, could cause prices to skyrocket, he said, warning that hunger, food riots and instability could be the result.”

He proposed an unprecedented exchange of information on grain stocks, pointing out that among the G-20 countries there was currently no cooperative mechanism on agriculture. The French presidency wanted one established to help limit export restrictions, he said, adding that it also wished to see financial markets dealing with agricultural commodities regulated in a manner that did not go against the market, but rather improved it. “It is unacceptable that there should be speculation on hunger in the world,” he said.

Non-Communicable Diseases

Health is on everyone’s mind. And leaders in the health sector are working to make it a major social issue, not just a medical one. Recently the associations for cancer, heart and diabetes have banded together to focus on chronic, non-communicable diseases (NCD). Discussions on topics like diet and nutrition will be growing even louder in the months ahead, as there is a concerted effort to elevate the importance of lifestyle choices, including greater consumption of fruit and vegetables. Intense scrutiny on fat, salt, and food processing is likely.

They have been very effective at moving the agenda forward in national food discussions and at the international level. Already a World Economic Forum survey stated “NCD’s are a threat to global well being.” Years of effort of their part are culminating in increased profile on national agendas in many developed countries including the UK, US, and Canada. Additionally, a series of international events will further the attention. For instance, it will be the focal point for the Opening the UN General Assembly in September. It is a great time to think about raising your voice on health issues and showing what you can offer to improved diets and nutrition.