Sustainability of the agri-food systems: the global challenge and potential solutions

Sustainability of the agri-food systems: the global challenge and potential solutions

July 06, 2018

Sustainability of the agri-food systems: the global challenge and potential solutions

In a document presented at the International Forum on Food and Nutrition in Brussels, BCFN made its policy proposal for sustainable agri-food systems, with practical recommendations to reach the set targets. 

Towards a Common Agri-Food Policy”. This is the title of the presentation made last June in Brussels, at the International Forum on Food and Nutrition, and now available on the BCFN website: an opportunity to raise awareness on the theme of sustainability and underline the importance of global involvement to achieve the objectives of the United Nations' Agenda 2030 for sustainable development detailed in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals

“In order to implement the Agenda 2030, developing more sustainable agri-food systems is essential” reads the introduction, while the document identifies three main challenges for Europe and the Mediterranean, before widening its scope to the global community. “The challenges and opportunities linked to the sustainability of the agri-food systems require a global reflection” explained the BCFN experts, who are also promoters of an “Intergovernmental Group on Food and Nutrition”.

The New EU agricultural policy

It is hard to imagine that the current food production systems and our Planet will be able to keep the pace with the increasing demands for food and water from the world population, which, according to forecasts, will approach 10 billion people in 2050 and in 2100 will exceed 11 billion.  With its recent proposals for a reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Europe is still focusing on farming only, instead of considering a more holistic approach to agri-food systems. “Only one of the nine proposals mentions food” BCFN explained, highlighting that the sustainability of production and nutrition still features as an “added element” rather than an integral part of the CAP. The BCFN policy document recommends a shift from an agricultural system to an agri-food system, and demands greater involvement of women and young people. Also, it recommends identifying the best practices and monitoring progress, using tools like the Food Sustainability Index co-produced by BCFN and The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). 


Rural development in the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean basin is the second challenge identified in the policy document. The region is a good example of the challenges facing the agri-food systems, because its countries are moving away from a food system that was considered healthy and sustainable. Environmental pressures and geo-political problems are also putting sustainability and food security at risk, while the economic crisis and the differences among the various countries in the area make this a hotspot for migration. European and global policies that can build and support real rural development in the Mediterranean area are absolutely crucial. What can we do? Experts at BCFN recommend that specific local features are incorporated in any agri-food policy, and that suitable financing is made available for sustainable rural development. 


Towards sustainable migration

In 2015, the European Union recorded a peak 1.25 million applications for asylum. Migration flows and their sustainable management, in fact, make up the third challenge identified in the BCFN policy document, which explains how sustainable migration is based first and foremost on the control of the factors that push hundreds of thousands of people to leave their home countries. “Sustainability first” is one the slogans proposed in Europe, in all areas of Community policy, from food to innovation, but also in the fields of justice and social cohesion. While it is crucial to act to stop emergencies in the short term, the 'long term thinking' remains key, looking for solutions, for example, that entail targeted partnerships with migrants' home countries. Finally, we need to open our eyes on the contribution that migrants make to EU farming: we need to contrast illegal hiring practices and implement social rights in the European Union to improve the current situation. 

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