On World Food Day, 16th October, a live audience of 160 from 36 countries participated in our webinar, ‘Food policy at a time of crisis: what should the future look like?’
Professor Ole Petersen
The webinar was moderated by the Hub’s Director, Professor Ole Petersen. Professor Petersen opened the webinar highlighting that the event was taking place on World Food Day, which this year marks the 75th anniversary of the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization. The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize has also been awarded to the World Food Programme, which is working in 80 countries in a world where 700 million people continue to go hungry. Our event was also part of EU Green Week.
Professor Petersen remarked that the pre-science notion that ‘we are what we eat’ has been superseded by knowledge that our digestive system breaks down food and builds our body according to its needs. It means that we are able to change our diets.
“We CAN change what we eat.” Ole Petersen
Professor Tim Lang
Professor Tim Lang put emphasis on the current food system crisis. He called on everyone to recognise the mismatch between human and ecological health. Food is now ultra-processed, and this constitutes a cultural problem that has to be reversed. Supply chains are becoming longer and more complex, addressing it requires giving more money directly to the primary producers to do the ‘right’ thing. In land use, priority must be given to horticulture, not animals. Society, culture, economy and politics all have to change, and this presents an enormous agenda challenge.
“We have enough evidence. We simply have to recognise the problem. We need to achieve what I term Ecological Public Health.” Tim Lang
Professor Terry Marsden
Professor Terry Marsden suggested that we are entering a new period of sustainable modernisation in Europe, and the EU’s Farm2Fork strategy starts to identify the change needed. He called on state-led incentives to rebalance the food system towards high-quality and affordable food, reversing the ‘economies of scale’ logic. Investment is needed in infrastructure that shifts us towards regionalised food supply, as part of more diverse supply chains. It is about a circular, bio-based approach and integrated solutions.
“We have to ‘re-people’ and ‘re-nature’ society. The EU Green Deal is a great opportunity.” Terry Marsden
Professor Katrien Termeer
Professor Katrien Termeer spoke about transformative change that is inclusive, diverse and circular. It needs largescale in-depth change, but it also has to be fast. She advocated the ‘small-wins’ approach, with little but important steps that have visible results. Policy support can target the small wins that are already working.
“Let’s start with small but deep changes. It’s about small wins that have visible results and make sense to people. Over time, they will accumulate into something significant.” Katrien Termeer
Professor Carina Keskitalo
The last speaker, Professor Carina Keskitalo, introduced the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors’ Scientific Opinion, Towards a sustainable food system. The report is based on the social sciences and calls for an integrated approach that tackles asymmetries in the system. For example, we can change how we think about food, and focus on what works, for example, local pilots that could be upscaled.
“We have to change the way we think about food, as this has policy consequences. If you only think of food as a commodity, this impacts policy design” Carina Keskitalo
The questions put by the audience were many and varied, and those that were picked up by the panel included:
- The speed of change and whether there is a need for targets
- The increasing re-use of farmland, for example, for housing
- How to achieve a system of high-quality, affordable food
- The role of professionals in the sector, such as food chefs, as advocates for change
- Sustainability and rethinking our approach to economic growth
More about the webinar
This webinar was a collaboration between SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies), Cardiff University’s Sustainable Places Research Institute and the Academia Europaea Cardiff Knowledge Hub.
Watch the webinar
More about the panellists
- Professor Tim Lang – Professor of Food Policy at the City University of London, Commissioner on the EAT-Lancet Commission, which published the highly acclaimed ‘Food in the Anthropocene‘ report (The Lancet, 2019)
- Professor Terry Marsden – Professor of Environmental Policy and Planning at Cardiff University (Wales, UK), Director of the Sustainable Places Research Institute (2010-2020) and Chair of the Advisory Panel that recently oversaw a full systematic review of the European food policy landscape (SAPEA, 2020)
- Professor Katrien Termeer – Chair of the Public Administration and Policy Group at Wageningen University & Research (Netherlands), Member of the Expert Group that recently conducted a comprehensive evidence review on Sustainable Food Systems (SAPEA, 2020)
- Professor Carina Keskitalo – Professor of Political Science at Umea University (Sweden), Member of the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors that recently published a Scientific Opinion and policy recommendations for a European sustainable food system (European Commission, 2020)
More about the reports
As a member of the consortium of European academies (SAPEA), Academia Europaea collaborated with ALLEA in the production of the Sustainable Food Systems evidence review. The Cardiff Hub led the systematic review on Sustainable Food Systems for the project and put together an advisory panel. The reports are available here.
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