Is our global food system broken?

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An interview with Professor John Ingram, Oxford University

Q: What is the EAT-Lancet report?

JI: The EAT-Lancet report is a very recently published document, which has a couple of really important messages relating to our diets. Essentially it’s saying we need to have a much more healthy diet which is more environmentally benign. It is packed with information, data, ideas and recommendations.

Q: Why is this important?

JI:  Because the state of our health on the global level is not particularly good. We have about a billion people who are hungry, we have perhaps 2.5 billion people who aren’t getting the correct nutrients, and we have perhaps 2.5 billion with too many calories, overeating. And despite some overlap of the second category with the first and third, this this means, collectively, over half of the global population does not have a satisfactory diet.

Q: Is our food system broken?

JI: The food system is not broken, it is serving multiple functions at a societal level, a huge number of livelihoods are embedded in the food system. It obviously feeds us and that’s important but the way it feeds us, and the change we’ve seen over the last 50 years, has led to increasing overconsumption of what is often termed – ‘empty calories’ – which is high calorific food with all those fats and sugars, but not particularly nutritious. On the other hand, we still have about a billion people hungry…

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Q: Is it just developing countries that suffer from malnutrition?

Q: What kind of problems does overnutrition bring?

Q: How did we get to a system where some people don’t have enough food and some people are eating too much food?

Q: Whose role is it to change the system?

Q: And who would the losers be?


John Ingram will be the keynote speaker in an upcoming webinar, Enhancing food system resilience: What roles can forests, trees and agroforestry play? What are the research perspectives?, hosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) and the Environmental Change Institute – University of Oxford (ECI) on Feb. 12, 2019, at 9am UTC, 4pm WIB. Read the full agenda and register to attend on the event webpage.

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