Editorial: Sustainability and Transformation of Food Systems: A global call for IUFoST participation

Responding to needs identified through the UN sustainable food system summit 2021, the Director General of FAO has established a Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) to provide independent advice in the implementation of food systems transformations at national, regional and global levels. two IAFoST fellows, Prof. Dr. Joachim von Braun of the University of Bonn and  IUFoST Distinguished Lecturer  at the 21st World Congress in  Singapore, and Dr. Aman Wirakartakusmah, IUFoST President, are invited members of SAC FAO. IUFoST President Aman writes here about some of the challenges facing the sustainability and transformation of  food systems and the invitation to IUFoST and IAFoST.

Many countries need assistance and innovation to successfully achieve the food system transformation that fits their local and regional situations. IUFoST through its adhering bodies and Academy and expert working groups around the world are invited to actively participate in these efforts. We should continue providing scientific advice through roundtable discussions, policy briefs and other channels as a direction for scientific exploration and technological innovation  needed by countries and communities. Sound and independent scientific advice could be bridged to the needy and partnership with other stakeholders and communities is the key to achieve transformations toward sustainable food systems.

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A food system is a complex network of activities involved in the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of food. This includes everything from growing crops and raising animals, processing and packaging food to transporting and marketing those products to consumers. Looking to the future, the food system faces many challenges, including climate change, water scarcity, and food insecurity. Addressing these challenges requires food system transformation. This includes fundamentally changing the way food is produced, processed, and consumed. Some of the most important features of transformed food systems are:

  • Sustainable agricultural practices: Agriculture must become more sustainable and adopt practices that protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This may include increasing regenerative and organic farming methods and reducing pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Reduce food waste: Food waste must be reduced at every stage of the food system, from farm to fork. This may include better warehousing and distribution systems, more efficient processing methods, and changes in consumer behavior
  • Improving access to healthy food: Transforming food systems must ensure that all people, regardless of income or location, have access to healthy and nutritious food. This may include changes in food prices and improved distribution systems to reach underserved areas.
  • Increased use of technology: Technology will play a significant role in transforming the food system with new innovations in areas such as precision agriculture, alternative proteins, and food processing.

Transforming food systems will be a complex and difficult process, but essential to building more sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems for the future. Improving the resilience of food systems is of importance to withstand and recover from shocks such as natural disasters, recessions, and pandemics. Improving food system resilience requires a multi-pronged approach that addresses the root causes of vulnerability, including environmental degradation, social inequalities, and economic instability. Taking a holistic approach to improving resilience so that food systems can withstand and recover from shocks and continue to provide nutritious and affordable food for all. This approach includes diversifying food sources and improving food storage and distribution, promoting sustainable agriculture, strengthening social safety nets, and encouraging innovation in food systems, which can facilitate the development of new technologies and practices that can help mitigate the impact of shocks and uncertainties.  

Both low-income or underdeveloped countries and developed countries have a key role to play in shaping food system transformation and ending hunger. We seek to create and implement innovative solutions to food insecurity for low-income or developing countries, including sustainable agricultural practices and social protection programs. By facilitating equitable access to resources and technology, these countries can help ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate in food system transformation. We recognize that developed countries can play an important role in addressing the root causes of food insecurity such as climate change, economic inequality, and environmental degradation. These countries can provide financial and technical assistance to low-income and underdeveloped countries to help them build the capacity to tackle food insecurity and promote sustainable development. Developed countries can also play a leading role in promoting sustainable food systems by taking actions such as investing in research and development, promoting sustainable agricultural practices, and supporting the development of new technologies. 

In the future, multiple facets of food system barriers, efforts to improve resilience, and priorities to end hunger and save the planet are likely to emerge. Here are some perspectives on these issues:

  • Climate change and environmental degradation are major obstacles to food systems as they can lead to lower agricultural productivity, food insecurity, and higher food prices. Improving food system resilience requires strategies that address the root causes of these challenges, such as promoting sustainable agricultural practices, developing new technologies that reduce the impacts of climate change and investing in research and development.
  • Efforts to end hunger and improve food security go hand in hand with the resilience of food systems because resilient food systems are better equipped to provide nutritious and affordable food for all. Priorities to end hunger include actions such as expanding access to food assistance programs, increasing agricultural productivity, and promoting sustainable food systems.
  • To save the planet, we need to address the root causes of environmental degradation and promote sustainable development. These include measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote renewable energy, protect biodiversity, and ensure that agricultural practices are sustainable and do not harm the natural environment. These efforts will end hunger as a priority, as sustainable development is essential to building the resilience of food systems and ensuring that everyone has access to nutritious and affordable food.

Overall, improving resilience in the food system, ending hunger, and saving the planet will require a holistic approach that addresses the underlying causes of these challenges. By taking steps to promote sustainable development, protect the environment, and promote equitable access to food, we can build a food system that is resilient, sustainable, and capable of providing nutritious and affordable food for all.


By Professor Dr. Aman Wirakartakusumah, IUFoST President

February 2023

Circulation and reproduction are welcome with attribution to IUFoST News Brief, February 2023 and a copy to the IUFoST Secretariat secretariat@iufost.org