The UN food system summit and some of the concerns – global problems

The 2021 Annual Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB) collects barley crops for Food Drive, Alberta, Canada. The grain is auctioned off and the revenue is matched by the Canadian government with 4: 1 and used by the CFGB to promote agriculture in developing countries. Credit: Trevor Page
  • Feedback By Trevor Page (Lethbridge, Canada)
  • Inter Press Service

A full range of food systems will be discussed at the summit, among them: production, processing, supply chain, consumption, nutrition, malnutrition, food aid and waste.

Food production

Food, or the nutrients it contains, is fuel for the body. Agriculture and food production in a well-organized way is one of the earliest human endeavors. It began in the fertile Crescent of the Middle East, around 10,000 BC. Although the mechanization of proper food production is predominant in major food-producing countries today, animal attraction is still important in many parts of the world.

The multi-million dollar combined handle harvesting, threshing, collection and win today in a single operation in the North American and European cereal fields. Programmed GPS, they will be driverless in a decade. Fruits and vegetables grown on vertical farms in the city using aquaponics have already spread around the world. Aquaculture can also be shifted to vertical farms, which makes fish much cheaper for city dwellers. Vertical farms will greatly reduce labor costs and transportation requirements. Mechanization reduces the number of people engaged in agriculture and, as a result, costs. Robotics and digital agriculture are already with us in some parts of the world. But where most people live in the world, traditional manual methods and veterinary medicine will continue until sophisticated technology requires high investment.

Wrestling with nature

Despite advances in technology, drought can adversely affect a crop. Cereal crops in western Canada and the United States have been severely damaged by drought this year. Climate change still presents the biggest challenge for agriculture and the human species.

Agriculture, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, contributes to climate change. According to the FAO, animal husbandry has the highest proportion because of the methane produced from enteric fermentation and the manure in the pasture. Also according to the FAO, 44% of GHGs come from Asia, 25% from America, 15% from Africa, 12% from Europe and 4% from Oceania.

Organic farming is the answer to healthy food? Studies have shown that biologically plant-based foods are high in antioxidants. Organic foods have low levels of toxins, heavy metals and low levels of pesticide residues, for example organic eggs, meat and dairy products. Organic farms use less energy and emit less GHG. They also reduce the pollution caused by the widespread use of nitrogen fertilizers on industrial farms, resulting in eutrophication of water bodies. Organic farming is based on fertilizing the soil with compost, fertilizer and regular rotation, covering various crops throughout the year. That builds carbon sequesters, healthy soil.

The problem is that organically produced food is more expensive than industrially produced food. On average, it sells about 25% more than the food sold in the supermarket. Also, most organic farmers need to supplement their income from additional occupations in order to end. So, despite the benefits to human health and the planet, what is the future of organic farming? The answer is a great “yes!” From producers and consumers. Although globally, only 1.5% of farmland is organic, 10% or more of agricultural land is organic in 16 countries, and the proportion is increasing. According to IFOAM Organics International, the countries with the largest organic share of their total agricultural land are Liechtenstein 38.5%, Samoa 34.5% and Austria 24.7%. Today, organic food is a lifestyle choice, both for producers and consumers. But if its growth is an indicator of concern for our health and for the planet, and more and more people are willing and able to pay the additional costs involved, then organic can be seen as an indicator of good health and a reduction in inequality, a major cause of conflict in the world today.

Although mankind has grown up on a diet of three main grains: wheat, corn and rice, potatoes are actually more nutritious. In addition, potatoes can be grown on marginal land and require only one-third of the water they need to grow the world’s three major crops. Five years ago, China was about to double its potato production and add it to the diet of its growing population. Should Africa follow suit?


The Food Systems Summit kicks off in New York on September 2, the high-level week of the UN General Assembly. World leaders will come together to find common ground and form alliances that will accelerate the implementation of the SDGs of our activities for the rest of this decade before 2030. Will we succeed in making zero hunger a reality? If we are serious about this goal, the answer lies in rethinking and redesigning our food system to make it more sustainable.

Trevor Page, A resident of Lethbridge, Canada, former emergency director of the World Food Program. He has worked with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the FAO, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UNHCR, and currently the United Nations Department of Political and Peace Building.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal Source: Inter Press Service

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