The coronavirus pandemic has signaled an urgent need to change the way food is produced to help contain hunger and develop environmentally sustainable supplies, according to the United Nations.
The combined effects of the COVID-19 crisis, government measures and the emerging global recession risk a worldwide food emergency and in the long-term could disrupt how food systems function, the UN said in a policy brief. That could lead to consequences for health and nutrition on a scale not seen for more than half a century, it said.
“There is an urgent need to rethink rapidly how we produce, process, market, consume our food and dispose of waste,” the UN said. “This crisis can serve as a turning point to re-balance and transform our food systems, making them more inclusive, sustainable and resilient.”
Food and agricultural production is responsible for as much as 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It has been linked the loss of biodiversity — contributing to the mass extinction of species, land degradation and pollution — while helping the spread of zoonotic diseases. At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic risks boosting the number of people suffering from hunger due to supply risks and falling incomes.
While tackling the effects of coronavirus, policy makers should consider how to create more sustainable food systems balanced with environmental and health needs, according to the UN. Some international financial institutions have already responded with new funding and proposals and are redirecting existing loans to focus on more resilient food systems, it said.