Sustainable, healthy, inclusive and fair food systems are instrumental to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the European Green Deal, says Andreas Thurner, president of the Thematic Group on Sustainable Food Systems

Andreas Thurner, President of the Thematic Group on Sustainable Food Systems

Sustainable, healthy, inclusive and fair food systems are instrumental to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the European Green Deal. Food is a common thread linking all 17 SDGs, and transforming food systems will provide a powerful lever for the implementation of the sustainable development and climate agendas as a whole.

As the new President of the NAT Thematic Group on Sustainable Food Systems, I am delighted to contribute to this agenda in the next 2.5 years, working together with the Members of the NAT Section (Agriculture, Rural development and the Environment) as well as with our network of partners and stakeholders.

The years to come will be crucial to achieve such a transformational shift in food systems. At the international level, the UN Food Systems Summit, to be convened by the UN Secretary-General in 2021, will launch bold new actions to change the way the world produces and consumes food.

At EU level, the "Farm to Fork Strategy"(F2F), adopted in May 2020, will contribute to Europe's Green Deal agenda, to protect the climate and the environment and preserve biodiversity, to ensure farmers' and fishers' position in the value chain, to encourage sustainable food consumption and to promote affordable and healthy food for all, without compromising on the safety, quality and affordability of food.

With other institutions and stakeholders, the EESC has strongly contributed to create the momentum for the adoption of the F2F Strategy. The Committee has been for years at the forefront of promoting a comprehensive EU food policy, providing healthy diets from sustainable food systems, linking agriculture to nutrition and ecosystem services and ensuring supply chains that protect public health for the whole of European society, as well as creating a culture that attributes the right value to food.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the fact that getting food "from farm to fork" cannot be taken for granted and has demonstrated even more the interconnectedness of actors and activities in agriculture and throughout the food system. It has also made us acutely aware of the interrelations between our health, ecosystems, supply chains, consumption patterns and planetary boundaries.

The F2F Strategy rightly recognises the need to build post-COVID resilience by enhancing the economic, environmental and social sustainability of food systems. Turning this strategy into meaningful and timely actions is now crucial, and the EESC has a role to play to propose concrete examples of actions.

In addition to the follow-up of the Farm to Fork strategy, I have proposed the following specific priorities for my mandate as President of the Thematic Group:

  • Sustainability – implementing the SDGs across the whole food supply chain
  • Circularity – reducing food losses and waste and promoting circular bioeconomy
  • Digitalisation - explore how the digital transition can help achieve more sustainable food systems
  • Promote civil society's voice in international fora, such as the UN Food Summit and the Committee on World Food Security (CFS)

We need more than ever sustainable, healthy, inclusive and fair food chains in the whole food sector, contributing to the twin digital and sustainable transitions and ensuring active participation of all stakeholders. I look forward to co-designing and co-creating this important work with the TG Members.