FAO and Bioversity International have released a book outlining responses to address diets that are unsustainable for human health and the planet.
Noting that industrial agriculture focuses on affordable refined carbohydrates and fats, this collection of papers underline that many of these crops have heavy water and carbon footprints.
8 August 2012: A new book, titled “Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity: Directions and Solutions for Policy, Research and Action,” urges action to promote sustainable diets and food biodiversity for the health of humans and the Earth. The book contains the proceedings of the International Scientific Symposium titled “Biodiversity and Sustainable Diets United Against Hunger,” which convened in November 2010. This collection of papers presented at the Symposium was prepared by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and Bioversity International.
The book notes that, despite improvements in agriculture over the past decades, agriculture systems are not yet sustainable. The papers stress the need for sufficient quantities of food, as well as to improve the quality of agriculture. They note the increase in diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, related to poor diets. They outline reasons for this unsustainable system, including industrial agriculture’s focus on affordable refined carbohydrates and fats, and the simplification of diets that are reliant on a few energy-rich foods. In addition, many of these crops have heavy water and carbon footprints.
The papers also argue that the simplification of diets has led to a loss of plant and genetic diversity. In response to these challenges, the book calls for an integrated approach, moving beyond major staples to look at neglected and underutilized species. It outlines examples where the promotion of traditional plants have led to improvements in local diets and markets. Such a move would require a transition toward more efficient use of resources, as well as a more efficient and equitable resource use in the consumption of food.
Bioversity International is a member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). [Publication: Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity: Directions and Solutions for Policy, Research and Action] [FAO Press Release]