CHALLENGES FACING THE FOOD SYSTEM
There are many food security and sustainability challenges facing the food system. The global population is forecast to exceed 10 billion by 2050, leading to an increasing demand for food and placing further pressure on finite resources. The global population will be weathier and increasingly urban which changes the way food is purchased and marketed (as well as amplifying the social and political consequences of increases in food prices). On the supply side there will be growing competition for land, energy and water, with the latter being of particular concern as a number of very major aquifers will be exhausted by 2025. Thus, more food will need to be produced with less. Yet, while productivity continues to increase, recently there has been a deceleration in investment in food system R & D.
Unsustainable food production threatens food security, for example from over-fishing, soil erosion or water shortages. Food production will increasingly be impacted by climate change, in particular from the increased frequency of storms, droughts and other extreme weather events. Food production is in turn a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions as well as water scarcity and wider biodiversity issues.
Overconsumption and waste further exacerbate these issues by placing unnecessary pressure on the food system, whilst rising obesity rates and diet-related illness are major drivers of ill health in many parts of the world and places increasing strain on health services.
● Though progress in reducing hunger over recent decades have been substantial there are still ~800 million people without access to enough food, many in failing states and conflict zones;
● A further two billion people lack key micronutrients, particularly iron, zinc, vitamin A and iodine (this is known as the “hidden hunger”);
● Two billion are overweight, creating a public health epidemic involving chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The food system is therefore failing to deliver for humanity and needs to change, taking full account of socio-cultural interactions, issues of equity and in particular the needs of the poorest who spend the greatest proportion of their income on food.
Professor Susan Jebb, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, talking about Diet, Obesity and Health for the Queens Lecture, Berlin, November 2018
Dr Marco Springman discusses the question: What impact could climate change have on food production and health? 2016