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929. Looking Back at 2023

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929. Looking Back at 2023


Thank you for visiting the JIRCAS Pick Up section in 2023.

Science and Nature both chose obesity drugs as one of this year's science and technology headlines. Glucagon-like peptide-1, originally developed for the treatment of diabetes, was named this year's breakthrough by top scientific journals not only for its use in medical dieting and slimming, but also for its effectiveness in reducing heart disease risk. Obesity is now a public health crisis worldwide. Obesity has now become a public health crisis worldwide, with nearly 70% of adults in the U.S. and more than half of adults in Europe suffering from overweight, and obesity is recognized as being closely related to diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses.

Meanwhile, as mentioned in a recent Pick Up, poverty and food crises are growing in a world of increasing inequality: in 2022, between 691 and 783 million people, or 9.2% of the world's population, will face hunger. Conflicts, insecurity, economic shocks, and extreme weather events are interrelated and compounding the polycrisis, with vulnerable segments of society suffering the most, creating a negative cycle of social unrest.

Thus, in today's world, the food system faces challenges in achieving its goal of providing nutritious and diverse food for all people of the world. The production systems that support these foods are also considered one of the causes of the planet's failing health. The following Pick Up article presents an important discussion of the crisis in the Earth system.

731. Food Systems and Syndemic
The syndemic, in which obesity, low nutrition, and global crises, including not only climate change but also biodiversity loss, coexist simultaneously, seems to be closely related to the food system, which provides "cheap food" through "massive consumption of cheap energy supported by supply chain development" and "over-consumption of the earth's finite resources. It would seem so. However, as is happening today, the system that provides "cheap food" appears to be facing the risk of collapse due to "soaring fuel, fertilizer, and feed prices due to supply chain disruptions" and "abnormal weather, pests, and infectious diseases caused by human activities exceeding the limits of the Earth. It is no longer feasible to provide "cheap food" by passing on the bill to producers' management efforts, the earth, and future generations. We need to fundamentally rethink our food system through "earth-friendly diets" that properly reflect the cost of maintaining the health of humankind and the earth.

859. Six Out of Nine Planetary Boundaries are in Dangerous Territory https://www.jircas.go.jp/en/program/proc/blog/20230915
A paper published in Science Advances on September 13 concludes that six of the nine planetary boundaries are beyond the danger zone: climate change, biosphere integrity, biogeochemical cycles (nitrogen and phosphorus), land use change, plus fresh water use and new chemical pollution. The paper notes that the global population growth since 1960 and the demand for food, fiber, and feed have accelerated land use change as the cause of biodiversity loss, and that even if it is theoretically possible to support a world population of 10 billion people under a planetary boundary, it is necessary to reduce the environmental impact of production and to reduce demand for resources to achieve this goal. He also pointed out that even though it is theoretically possible to support a world population of 10 billion under a planetary boundary, it will require drastic changes that reduce the environmental impact of production and curb demand for resources.

919. Global Tipping Point
In the climate change debate, the tipping point is defined as the threshold at which a small disturbance can cause a qualitative change in the state of the system. In particular, tipping elements affected by global warming and other factors caused by anthropogenic economic activities include the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, permafrost melting, Antarctic ice sheet melting, Amazon deforestation, and others. Systemic disruptions are correlated with each other, and there is concern that an avalanche of irreversible changes through a globalized society could cause disasters beyond the adaptive capacity of some countries and threaten the stability of our societies. For example, a disruption of the North-South Atlantic thermohaline cycle combined with global warming could result in the loss of half of the world's wheat and maize production areas. The existence of the Tipping Point means that business as usual will not work, and more radical changes in nature and society are possible. If we do not rethink the nature of governance, the failure of nature could overwhelm our society.

Against this backdrop, a declaration aiming to mainstream food system transformation in the climate agenda was approved by more than 130 countries on December 1 at COP28 in Dubai.

913. COP28 - Integrating Food System Transformation in the Climate Change Agenda
The Declaration advocates actions to be strengthened by participating countries by 2025 in five areas, including the promotion of innovation aimed at increasing sustainable productivity and the mobilization of all forms of resources, in order to achieve sustainable development in the food and agriculture sectors and strengthen the response to climate change.


The food system is an issue to be addressed on a global scale, although the challenges faced by each country and region are different. In order to solve the issues faced by each country and region, international cooperation is more important than ever, in line with the trends of international policy discussions, and timely provision of information and analysis of mid- to long-term trends are more important than ever. IAEA will continue to collect, analyze, and disseminate information on scientific and technological trends in international agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, as well as global issues.

We look forward to your continued support in 2024, and will resume Pick Up on January 4, 2024.


Contributor: IIYAMA Miyuki (Information Program)

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