Food policy webinar attracts large international audience on World Food Day

Food policy webinar attracts large international audience on World Food Day

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Professor Petersen remarked that the pre-science notion that ‘we are what we eat’ has been superseded by knowledge that our digestive system breaks down food and builds our body according to its needs.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

The Chair and moderator was Professor Ole Petersen, Vice-President of Academia Europaea.

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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19th October 2020. For further information please contact

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