many actions are needed whether we are addressing production or consumption. New Zealand features in several places in the report, including a full page on New Zealand’s sheep meat sector. The data shows New Zealand sheep farmers are implementing practices directed at environmental improvement and sustainable production. For example, methane emissions per kilogram of meat have decreased continuously since the 1990s. Still, though, fundamental transformations are needed with all farming systems, not just livestock, for environmental sustainability and nutrition improvement. There are two reactions we should resist when it comes to sustainability: we should not give up for lack of progress, such as climate change; nor should we be derisive of the word, even if we’re tempted to think of it as a worn-out platitude. It is not a tired trend a la last year, nor is it ‘mission impossible’. Sustainability issues are mission critical, and particularly so in the area of food consumption and production. Professor Barbara Burlingame is the only Southern Hemisphere member of the new High level Panel of Experts (HLPE) project team for the Committee on World Food Security, chosen from a pool of 139 high-level international candidates. At home, she is Professor of Public Health Nutrition at Massey University. www.foodtechnology.co.nz 27 Diets today in New Zealand are not sustainable. The prevalence of diet-related chronic disease, obesity and its consequences are wreaking havoc on many fronts. Micronutrient deficiencies are also a big problem associated with poor quality diets. Bad nutrition kills more people than smoking and alcohol. Agriculture today in New Zealand is not sustainable. Many agricultural practices drive climate change, including both intensive and extensive livestock systems. Agricultural chemical overuse has led to contamination of soils, ground water supplies and food. And monoculture agriculture, in huge swathes, not only destroys landscapes and biodiversity, but seeds its own demise (see Cavendish banana case study). The environments are not sustainable. Degradation of ecosystems and biodiversity loss are but two of the issues, and the agriculture sector is largely the cause. The different sectors are addressing their sustainability problems independently. Yet sustainable solutions require actions, policies and programmes that are multisectoral and transdisciplinary. Nutrition should not be the unique domain of the health sector, nor should food production be the unique domain of agriculture. Yet these sectors often work alone, and sometimes at cross purposes. We see this nationally, and we see it internationally in the UN system. In recent years, though, an effective bridge between the two sectors was built with some ideas that would help make agriculture the solution instead of the problem for the environment, and better nutrition in the form of sustainable diets would be the outcome. The environment sector took the initiative, mainly through the Convention on Biological Diversity, and together with the Food and Agriculture Organization and Bioversity International, ‘The Cross-cutting Initiative on Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition’ was operationalised around 2005. When addressed coherently, human nutrition becomes the champion of sustainable food systems, climate change mitigation, and biodiversity conservation through sustainable use; and the agriculture sector serves as an equal partner with health in halting the epidemics of obesity and dietrelated chronic diseases. If we fast-forward to 2016, and look back over the decade, we do see some progress, albeit too slow and cumbersome. Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition is associated with an active research agenda, and a number of effective national policies and programmes have emerged in many countries. Results have shown significant improvements in micronutrient intakes when local food biodiversity specified multisectoral policies. Biodiversity featured as the important thrust for sustainable diets, which also has a very dynamic research platform in its own right, championed by countries, philanthropic groups, UN agencies and the private sector. The Decade of Action on Nutrition, 2016-2025, was declared by the UN General Assembly. It is a commitment of UN Member States, including New Zealand, to undertake 10 years of sustained and coherent implementation of policies and programmes tackling a range of issues, from obesity to sustainable food production, and the roles and responsibilities of several sectors, including food industries. We in New Zealand should feel particularly committed to this, as New Zealand was one of a handful of countries to serve on the Working Group that drafted the Rome Declaration and the associated Framework for Action, which are the basis for the Decade of Action on Nutrition. Also noteworthy and relevant are the recommendations for policy and actions developed by the Committee on World Food Security’s High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE). The Committee’s report, ‘Sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition: what roles for livestock?’ was launched last month at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome. Business as usual is not a sustainable option for the livestock sector and CAVENISH BANANA DILEMMA • The Cavenish banana, one of the world’s most popular types and grown in the United Kingdom since 1830, is facing extinction • A deadly fungal strain of the Panama Disease (Fusarium wilt), which killed off the Gros Michel banana 60 years ago, has attacked more than 10,000ha of Cavendish bananas already • The disease enters the plant’s roots and spreads quickly, invading vascular tissue, and is not harmful to humans, although it is easily spread by us • Although it’s yet to reach top exporter Ecuador, the disease has established in Australia, Asia and Africa • Whilst there are more than 1000 types of bananas, most are consumed where they are grown or are inedible • The United States and Europe are the top importers, with bananas providing income or food to around 400 million people worldwide.
FT AUG 16
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