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The United Nations Outlook on the Second Paradox of the Global Food System

Agriculture and sustainable development are two important elements of the United Nations and BCFN missions – organizations with one common vision: a world of equal opportunity in which growth and development are both possible for everyone and sustainable for the environment.

With an extraordinarily high number of people lacking adequate access to food, one third of the world’s food production goes to feeding animals and an increasing proportion of farmland is dedicated to the production of bio-fuel to power cars1. This is the second of the three great paradoxes of the global food system which BCFN has identified and which sheds light on the indissoluble relationship between food and the environment. A relationship which also factors into the objectives regarding sustainability which the United Nations aims to achieve by 2030, in particular as part of the second of the 17 objectives: “Put an end to hunger, achieve food security and good nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture2. But in order to succeed, this congruity of intentions must translate into practical initiatives aimed at involving an ever-increasing number of people, institutions, and businesses from various fields that will be able to contribute to resolving this paradox.

Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture Against Hunger
Putting an end to poverty, hunger, and malnutrition are the most important goals to be achieved in the journey towards sustainable development and represent an enormous challenge worldwide. The experts at FAO agree and, commenting on the 17 United Nations objectives, wrote: “Without rapid progress in reducing and eliminating hunger and malnutrition by 2030, the full range of Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved3. Improving agricultural yields is one of the necessary steps to take in order to increase the availability of food, even in the poorest regions, but the true goal is not to have a greater quantity of food and water. Food and water must be free of contamination (biological, chemical, etc.) and must be available at prices and through sustainable methods accessible even to the most fragile. Furthermore, nutritional quality cannot be sacrificed for quantity: truly sustainable nutrition must guarantee all of the macro and micro-nutrients necessary for a person’s development and well-being. “It is possible to eradicate hunger by 2030, the planet produces enough food for everyone,” say the experts at FAO, re-emphasising the need for global involvement and the pivotal role of agriculture in contrasting desertification and other negative impacts related to climate change.

Development Must Begin in Rural Areas
One concept is clear to the experts: extreme poverty and hunger must be combated especially through actions in rural areas, where at least 80% of all people living in such unhealthy conditions live. Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, in the 2015 Millennium Development Goals Report, highlighted that, “the disparity between rural and urban areas is very pronounced”. This is why an improvement in food production, in agricultural productivity, and in incomes in rural areas plays a key role in the largest humanitarian and ecological challenge of this millennium. But in order to achieve this incredibly complex goal, what is needed is the political willingness to invest in individuals who can make a difference: small business owners and farmers, women involved in agriculture, fishermen, local communities, young men and women, and other categories of fragile or marginalized people, as well as the attention of international organizations like the United Nations, which for years has been involved in promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development (SARD) through training and educational initiatives, financial incentives, and the development of new technologies that ensure that everyone has a stable supply of and access to nutritious food, with meticulous attention to the management and protection of resources and the environment.



1) Eating Planet pg. 150
2) From the WHO website: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”.
3) From the WHO website: “Without rapid progress in reducing and eliminating hunger and malnutrition by 2030, the full range of Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved. At the same time, reaching the other SDGs will pave the way for ending hunger and extreme poverty”.


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