Food Systems

Food Systems


The food system includes all those activities involving the production, processing, transport and consumption of food. The food system includes the governance and economics of food production, its sustainability, the degree to which we waste food, and how food production affects the natural environment. We include issues of how food affects health and well-being, including nutrition, obesity and food safety. A particularly important area of policy concern is the food system in less developed countries where hunger and malnutrition can be rife, as well as the links between food and sustainable development. The consumption of food is also an integral part of all our lives and its history and culture are fascinating and important topics of research and study.

Population size will increase (though at a diminishing rate) while the world’s peoples will be wealthier and demand a richer diet requiring more resources to produce. The global population will increasingly be urban which changes the way food is purchased and marketed (as well as amplifying the social and political consequences of high food prices).

On the supply side there will be growing competition for land, energy and water, the latter of particular concern as a number of very major aquifers will be exhausted by 2025. Though productivity continues to increase, recently this has been at a decelerating rate associated with low investment in food system R & D.

Despite some progress in recent decades, nearly a billion people go to bed hungry each night, and perhaps the same again suffer some form of malnutrition. Yet a third billion or so people eat too much food and are at risks of the diseases of over-consumption, a problem for both the developed and developing world. Investment in agriculture as an engine for sustainable development has been very low in recent decades, and, though it is now receiving greater attention, many commentators argue much more can be done.