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625. Challenges of Food Systems Transitions

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On September 21, the heads of the FAO, IMF, World Bank, WFP, WTO, and other international organizations issued their second joint statement on the global food security and nutrition crisis, calling for comprehensive international coordination to support efficient production and trade, improve transparency, accelerate innovation, and invest in food systems transformation.

A paper published this month in Nature Food attempts to visualize the challenges by classifying the world's countries into food system typology. The paper mentioned that over the past 50 years, the global food system has undergone a profound transformation, with impacts on diets, nutrition, health, livelihoods, and environmental sustainability. In order to transform the food system to contribute to the health of the planet and humanity, it is first necessary to understand the current situation.

Since the mid-20th century, food systems have greatly reduced the probability of catastrophic famine by feeding a growing population, but have also brought new challenges such as climate change, ecosystem resilience, and inequality. On the other hand, it is not yet possible to provide food for all. The food system challenge has shifted from providing nutritious food to feed the world's population to promoting environmental sustainability, equity, and respect for cultural values.

The paper identifies 155 countries representing 97% of the world's population as (1) rural and traditional, (2) informal and expanding, (3) emerging and diversifying, (4) modernizing and formalizing, and (5) industrial and consolidated. The paper concludes that while food systems have increased the availability of nutritious food with economic development, they have yet to deliver outcomes that meet optimal nutrition, health, environmental sustainability, inclusiveness, and equity in all food system typology.

The paper further illustrates the importance of land systems and specific socioeconomic circumstances through case studies of six countries  (Tajikistan, Egypt, Albania, Ecuador, Bolivia, and the United States) that are "outliers" from these categories. The importance of land systems and special socioeconomic circumstances was demonstrated. For example, (1) the case of Tajikistan, which is rural and traditional, but where a large portion of the population has access to a healthy diet due to equitable land reform and policies that encourage vegetable and fruit cultivation instead of cash crops, and (5) the case of United States, where a healthy diet is economically accessible, but not widespread due to social disparities, and where many farmers are poor and inequitable, was also mentioned.

Ambikapathi, R., Schneider, K.R., Davis, B. et al. Global food systems transitions have enabled affordable diets but had less favourable outcomes for nutrition, environmental health, inclusion and equity. Nat Food 3, 764–779 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-022-00588-7


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