Healthy food for all at scale

FFA2021 Annual Conference session 3 summary

Monday, Apr 19, 2021


The afternoon opened with a video summary of the Food4Future Hackathon organised by Rabobank in conjunction with FFA2021, the United Nations, and the Young Friends of the Countryside. It showed a group of next generation leaders discussing how to renew the food system to benefit society and the health of our planet.

Before the panel discussion opened, moderator Stephen Sackur announced that Mai Thin Yu Mon, Indigenous Peoples Rights Activist, would unfortunately not be able to join the panel due to the ongoing military situation in Myanmar.


During the discussion, Brent Loken, Global Food Lead Scientist, WWF, pointed to the need to tackle health and environmental concerns in a joint effort. Addressing one at a time, as may appear to be the case now, could aggravate problems in the other. Similarly, he supported the need for local, national and globalised food systems. “Every single type of system is needed. We shouldn’t say industrial agriculture is automatically bad and local is good. It is not that simple.” It was also remarked that currently marketing campaigns are targeting youths in their promotion of junk food; however, Brent Loken likewise noted that “it’s really good to see the youth push back and say enough is enough…We want healthy food choices”.

Berry Marttin, Member of the Managing Board, Rabobank Group, called for “robust value chains, responsible people coming together, and looking at what is the right solution for each region”. The bank is reassessing it’s investment portfolio as it discusses with clients the moves they are making towards a sustainable food system. Berry is looking to the UN Food Systems Summit to agree on an overall framework for future food production. This must include the true costs involved, especially carbon sequestration and water quality, which account for some 80% of the environmental impact, and the social consequences, particularly in certain parts of the world.

Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), called on businesses, governments and consumers to be more active and more blatant in their actions for genuine change. “Where is the Extinction Rebellion around healthy and unhealthy food?” he asked. Governments must lead since “government action is not a cure all, but government inaction is a kill all”. He challenged governments to “be much more courageous and much more accountable for their actions”. Using carrots and sticks, they should be tougher on businesses that behave badly and use incentives to encourage good practices.

Dr. Shenggen Fan, Chair Professor and Dean, Academy of Global Food Economics and Policy, China Agricultural University, presented some of China’s ambitious goals: carbon neutrality by 2060 and Healthy China 2030 with ten individual strategies to move from vision to action. New 2021 nutrition guidelines will advise people on healthy and sustainable diets for themselves and society. Alongside government direction, he suggested society as a whole “will make sure big private companies will be responsible for what they are doing in terms of citizens’ health and nutrition”.

There was strong recognition on the panel of the commitment of young people in this debate and of their ability, as future voters and consumers, to affect change. There was also consensus for greater attention to be paid to the interests and experience of indigenous peoples.

Asked for one concrete policy to deliver healthy food at scale, the panellists identified the following: reform agricultural subsidies to support production of nutritious, healthy, sustainable food (Shenggen Fan); make carbon tradeable at the Chicago Board of Trade so it has a price (Berry Marttin); change diets to focus on less meat (Brent Loken); and create an investment fund to help food sector SMEs, particularly in Africa (Lawrence Haddad).

Singer, songwriter and climate activist Eva Keretic ended the session. She explained in word and song the personal journey from her comfort zone to being a passionate advocate for sustainable food reform, with her current vision for a vertical and biotech farming campus in Hamburg.


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