Science - January 24, 2017

‘The food sector needs a drastic overhaul’

Text:
Albert Sikkema

Researchers at Wageningen University & Research argue for a radical change in our diet and food production in order to improve our climate and health. Their vision shows large similarities with the report ‘Wat ligt er op ons bord?’ (‘What do we have on our plates?’) presented today by the RIVM – the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.

<illustration: Geert-Jan Bruins>

With this report, the RIVM anticipates the Food Top that will take place this Thursday in The Hague, during which the government and industry will discuss a new integral food policy. In the report, the RIVM pleads for an approach in which the sustainability, health and safety of our food are considered and can strengthen one-another. The government should take on an active role and make sure that the Dutch eat less on average and develop a diet with less animal products, soda, and alcohol. Per the RIVM, such a diet will ascertain a decrease in chronic illnesses and a lower environmental impact.

Circular agricultural sector
WUR researchers argue for the same change. Our food production will need to change radically if we want to meet the goals set pertaining the climate and health; that was the message we were given during two societal debates at WUR in early January. During the Agro-debate in Spijkenisse, WUR economist Hans van Meijl argued for a climate neutral and circular agricultural sector. To be able to feed everyone in the future in a sustainable world with a limited rise in temperature, we should stop deforestation, stop food waste, eat less meat in the richer countries and work on a high agricultural productivity per hectare, says Van Meijl.

Martin Scholten, Managing Director of the Animal Sciences Group, in turn argued for a radical change towards climate neutral food production. At the New Year café hosted jointly by WUR and the consultancy bureau Schuttelaar & Partners in The Hague, he stated that we should aim for food production in closed cycles, in which we produce better food in a more efficient way and fully use manure as a valuable green resource.

Food policy
With their statements, Van Meijl and Scholten have acted pre-emptively upon the integral food policy that will be presented by four ministries at the Food Top on Thursday. It is clear that according to them, such a food strategy should be about much more than just agriculture and economy. The melting ice caps and the obesity epidemic should also have an influence on our diet.

Read the full article: ‘Case for radical change in agriculture sector’


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