How science and innovation can strengthen global food systems
Unfortunately, current global food systems are not sustainable. One in nine people are affected by hunger globally. This situation was worsened by the pandemic.
Global food systems currently do not prevent malnutrition. In fact, they can worsen nutrition and health outcomes with the high rates of obesity and related health issues caused by unhealthy diets. Food today also lacks sufficient nutrients.
Food systems affect the environment negatively, contributing about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions from 1990–2015. They are susceptible to disruptions like the pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war or any natural disasters. But science and innovation can offer a way out.
First steps toward scientific innovations
UN Secretary-General António Guterres convened the Food Systems Summit in 2021 with the goal of encouraging stakeholders to collaborate in making tangible, positive changes to global food systems.
With five action tracks, the summit focused on efforts towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals related to food systems, especially Goal 2 (Zero Hunger).
Before the Summit, an independent Scientific Group was set up to provide input from the global scientific community. Information generated was used to recommend seven innovation priorities for transforming food systems. Three are directly related to food science and technology.
Innovations in food science and technology
Innovations in food science and technology are well-positioned to address many food systems challenges. Food processing has enabled nutrient preservation and the enhancement of sensory quality, safety and shelf life of food products. Food fortification — the process of adding micronutrients to food — helps meet specific nutritional needs to mitigate malnutrition.
1) Best out of waste:
The world wastes millions of tonnes of food every year. Reducing food waste and encouraging people to consume diets with lower carbon footprint would therefore be ideal. But since that seems too idealistic, processing technologies (like 3D printing) can be used to convert this waste into new food products, promoting efficient use of resources.
2) Food diversification:
Ongoing food diversification efforts include untapped resources (like millets and baobabs) that have high amounts of nutrients. These neglected, underutilized, minor or orphan crops should be consumed more. Using sustainable alternatives like marine-based foods and edible insects is also gaining popularity in some cultures.
Diversification can help reduce the overuse of the five big staples (maize, rice, wheat, potatoes and cassava) and widen the type of nutrients consumed. It can also encourage local food production, building resilience.
3) Sustainable food processing:
Food processing such as fermentation has proven to unlock the health benefits of food. There is strong scientific evidence that the active components of functional foods — foods that offer health benefits beyond their nutritional value — can prevent diseases like hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.
This preventative approach to health is largely underutilized.
Effective implementation equals success
The main task now is to efficiently implement these recommendations, especially in regions most affected by food insecurity.
Food systems policy initiatives mostly occur at the national and global levels, and community-level engagements can help increase the chances of sustaining their impact locally. Local engagement can also help gather and implement traditional knowledge and cultural beliefs that influence innovation.
Courtesy of Bizcommunity – read full article here.