World Food Day – Agricultural cooperatives key to feeding the world

16 October 2012, Brussels - The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) World Food Day provides an opportunity to highlight the plight of millions undernourished people in the world, BUT also the increasing problem of overconsumption and associated chronic conditions of overweight and obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. The pandemic of co-existing hunger and overnutrition - approximately 1 billion people suffer from hunger and 1.4 million people overweight or obese – creates new challenges for food and nutrition security and illustrates that a more integrated approach to food and nutrition security is desperately needed.

The European Public Health and Agriculture Consortium (EPHAC) joins the FAO World Food Day 2012 in supporting all efforts to make real progress towards food and nutrition security. The current debate in Europe is particularly worrisome with its focus on increasing production, without adequately addressing how this will impact on our eco-systems and how this will in turn affect long-term term food and nutrition security.

We must constantly remind ourselves that simply producing more, will not solve the issues of food security. 1 billion people go to bed hungry and 1.4 billion are overweight or obese. If this is what the free interplay of markets, agriculture policy and globalisation have delivered, then it has failed us miserably,” said Robert Pederson, Senior Policy Advisor for EPHAC.

Seizing the opportunity, EPHAC calls for integrated food and agriculture policy fit for current social climate, able to ensure sustainable production of healthy and nutritious food for all. Food and Nutrition Security is not just a developing world problem; it is estimated that 43 million people in Europe suffer from food – and nutrition - insecurity or food poverty. In fact, research suggests that many people and families that suffer from food insecurity have an increased risk of overweight and obesity, as well as other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like heart diseases or diabetes.

Agricultural cooperatives and new forms of cooperation should be a central component in strategies to meet the challenges of food and nutrition security. Supporting local and regional agriculture can contribute to poverty reduction goals, social inclusion and boost local economies, whether in developing or developed countries. Agricultural cooperatives have been a cornerstone of the European model of agriculture, but need to be re-thought to meet the current challenges. New forms of cooperation such as community supported agriculture and cooperative buying schemes can provide benefits for farmers and consumers, boost local economy, reduce rural poverty and promote production of health-promoting products such as fresh fruit and vegetables.

We are about to miss a huge opportunity to align European and global agriculture and food policy to meet the challenges of food for good health for all. It is imperative that given the current challenges, agriculture delivers not just food but good, nutritious food”, stated Susanne Løgstrup, EPHAC chair. “We urgently need to reframe the current debate to address food and nutrition security and link to issues relating to health, sustainability and equity. We have great allies on our side with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter stating that our food systems are making people sick. This cannot be ignored any longer,” she concluded.

Entering the final stages of the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union, the reform must deliver against a broader set of policy objectives, including consumption outcomes. Sustainable production and consumption patterns need to be promoted, to avoid unhealthy eating habits and the associated health effects, and reduce impact on natural resources. In particular, lower consumption of meat and dairy products in developed countries should be promoted.

***END***

Notes to the editors:

(1) EPHAC is a Brussels based alliance of civil society and public health organisations advocating for a healthy, sustainable Common Agriculture Policy. EPHAC members are European Alcohol Policy Alliance, EuroHealthNet, European Heart Network (EHN), European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), International Diabetes Federation European Region (IDF Europe), Heart of Mersey and National Heart Forum (NHF).

(2) Chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), overweight and obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and mental health disorders pose the greatest threat to health and are a major barrier to sustainable economic and inclusive growth in Europe. Diet, along with physical activity, alcohol and tobacco consumption is one of the leading modifiable risk factors for NCDs.

(3) Report to the UN Human Rights Council by UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter.

Whom to contact at EPHAC: Robert Pederson (robert.pederson@healthyagriculture.eu) +45 40 28 17 01

Last modified on November 6 2012.