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24.09.2020 |

New book calls for accelerated transformation of our food systems

Cover of the new book
Cover of the new book

The COVID-19 pandemic exposes sharp injustices and system wide failures of today’s prevailing food and agriculture systems - injustices that had already been accelerating over the past decade, which has proven to be the most destructive period of food production and consumption in modern history. In their new book “Transformation of our food systems - the making of a paradigm shift”, 40 international experts describe the highlights and trends in food production since 2009, when the ground-breaking IAASTD report was published, starting a paradigm shift in the perception of the global food system.

Will COVID-19 and its impacts on world food systems catalyse a real transformation of highly dysfunctional and destructive practices all along the food chain? “Business as usual is not an option” was the provocative message of more than 400 authors of the UN- and World Bank-led International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, published in 2009. It is probably still the most comprehensive assessment of global agriculture. One decade later there seems to be worldwide agreement amongst most international scientists, politicians, civil society and businesses, that our food systems are in urgent need of a fundamental transformation in order to withstand the enormous challenges of today and tomorrow. The climate and biodiversity crises, unprecedented exhaustion of natural resources, rising malnutrition and its health impacts are amongst the most pressing reasons for this. This past decade was the most destructive period of food production and consumption ever – not only with respect to ecosystems, but also the social and cultural fabric of rural communities around the globe.

In their book “Transformation of our food systems – the making of a paradigm shift”, 40 eminent food system experts, most of them authors and review editors of the initial IAASTD, have now taken stock of the developments of global food systems over the past decade. Presenting 13 follow-up landmark scientific reports and UN agreements as well as 15 updates and 13 infographics on key emerging trends and topics, the authors take the reader on a journey to the most important developments. They have been personally involved in the making of many of these reports, and they take a look behind the scenes of politics and science.

World Food Prize winner and former co-president of the IAASTD Hans Herren, together with an NGO representative in the IAASTD bureau, food and farming activist Benny Haerlin, convened an IAASTD+10 advisory group of 16 to help edit the book and compile its key messages. “This combination of international views and perspectives is a treasure trove for decision-makers and activists, scholars and practitioners along the food systems chain,” said Benny Haerlin. “It not only talks about transformation, it also shows how it can be done and where it is already happening.”

The book is published in the run-up to this year’s only virtual High Level Special Event of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), where for the first time agroecology will be at the centre of discussions and where decision-makers will also reflect about global efforts needed to “build back better” after COVID-19. “This book clearly proves from various perspectives that the agroecological approach is by far the most important and fundamental pathway to ‘build back better’ and to make the shift towards sustainable food systems,” says Hans Herren. The book is also a critical contribution to the “Food Systems Summit 2021”, being organized under the auspices of the United Nations.

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