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.