Leaders gathered at the fifth annual EAT Stockholm Food Forum called for a 'revolution' to transform the global food system and tackle one of our time's biggest challenges.
"We need nothing less than a revolution," said Isabella Lövin, Sweden's deputy prime minister and minister for international development cooperation and climate, in her opening speech. "We need to steer our planet in a new direction and a new development paradigm that has the health of the planet and its inhabitants center."
About half the world's population is suffering from malnutrition and hunger is again on the rise globally. At the same time, overweight and obesity continue to increase, impacting more than 2 billion children and adults. Food production is also the biggest cause of global environmental degradation, with the agricultural sector being the single-largest contributor to climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss.
With just 12 years to achieve the world's most ambitious development targets - the UN Sustainable Development Goals - there is an urgent need to transform our food system to put us on a path that will support a healthy world population and planet.
"Until now, we've had no goals, facts or narrative for the food system as a whole, to promote the health of both people and the planet," said Dr. Gunhild A. Stordalen, the executive chair and founder of EAT. "To move forward, we must define a unifying factual baseline for food."
The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health will later this year release its report Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems, marking the first collaborative effort to set global, scientific targets for a food system transformation. A key goal is to foster more constructive conversations, collaborations and help track change, Stordalen said.
Professor Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, echoed Lövin's call for a food system revolution.
Rockström and Sania Nishtar, co-chair of WHO's high-level commission on non-communicable diseases, warned of troubling trends despite mounting international support for transforming the global food system. The prevalence of diabetes has doubled in the last 30 years and global shifts to unhealthy diets risk undermining the health gains of the past 50 years, said Nishtar.
Christiana Figueres, the convenor of Mission 2020, said that not enough progress has been made to meet climate goals for land use and food systems by the end of this decade.
"We won't meet the 2020 goals for these areas," said Figueres, who oversaw the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate. "That is a huge concern."
Still, Figueres, a self-confessed 'stubborn optimist,' is encouraged by the increasing attention the world is paying to food system and land use issues.
"This whole topic has finally matured to the point where it is front and center," she said. "That is a huge opportunity that we can't afford to miss."