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Food and sustainability

More room - and a voice - for sustainability

The BCFN International Forum on Food and Nutrition was the ideal platform from which to launch an important journalism prize aimed at increasing knowledge about crucial sustainability topics.

The Food Sustainability Media Award, a prize established by the BCFN in partnership with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was officially presented in Milan during the seventh International Forum on Food and Nutrition. We sat down to discuss the new-born journalism recognition and the themes it should cover with Laurie Goering, Climate Editor at the Thomson Reuters Foundation. As mentioned on her official profile, “reporting from more than 80 countries, Laurie has covered a wide variety of humanitarian, political, economic and environmental issues and has written about climate change since 2003 in countries ranging from Indonesia to South Africa.”

What, even drawing from your experience in the field, are the characteristics of a truly sustainable food system?
I believe there are numerous, precise characteristics that a truly efficient and sustainable food system must have to safeguard the future of the planet. There’s too many to list, but there are three which I consider particularly important. I believe the food system of the future must be consultative, ethical and more resilient.

Can you explain, in detail, what you mean by a consultative food system?
When looking at the current situation, what we find is that often decisions are made too far away from those who must implement them in the field, in particular the vegetable and animal farmers who live in poorer countries. In order for the projects to work and to truly be able to bring food to more people, there should be widespread involvement of all those who play a role in such projects, such as food farmers and animal breeders, to help improve the research with their contributions, rather than having “already complete” research brought to them.

The system, however, must also be ethical and resilient. What does that mean in practical terms?
In terms of the creation of a more ethical, fair system, it’s essential for us to realise that many changes will be necessary to be able to feed more people, and that many of them must take place in the world’s poorest countries. However, I believe there is also a lot of work to do in more advanced countries, starting with the sharing and use of resources. Certainly, no less important is the resilience of the entire system, understood as the ability to absorb and manage shocks, to take account of what is happening and adapt to the changes.

What role do large international organisations have to play in these changes?
It is essential to ensure that the large flow of money which passes through international funding entities truly reaches all levels of the system, including the poorest countries and local businesses. Local communities have a solid understanding of the critical issues and good ideas about how to solve them, so it’s extremely important that they are able to access a part of international funding.

How can a journalism prize help the change towards a more sustainable food system?
The Food Sustainability Media Award (link) has the goal of ensuring media coverage of a few of the crucial points along the road to food system sustainability to respond to fundamental questions on the topic. It’s a prize open to professional journalists, but also all those who perhaps are beginning their careers in this industry, and therefore has two categories. The first is reserved for material already published in the media (from daily newspapers to blogs), offering up 10,000 euros. The second, on the other hand, is for unpublished material which can come from an enormous number of sources and different people, and could address a wide spectrum of topics linked to sustainability. In this case, the winners will be given the chance to attend a media training course on food sustainability organised by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Lastly, I think it’s important to specify that I’m talking about the winners – plural – as each category will award each section of the competition: written journalism, photography and videos. In this sense, it’s a one-of-a-kind prize.
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