The much anticipated online kick-off of the multidisciplinary research programme ‘Transition to a sustainable food system’ will take place on 13 April from 13.00 to 14.00.
This three-year programme will be driven by a broad consortium of 30 scientists from research-oriented higher education and higher professional education, working with a large group of businesses, NGOs and innovation networks under the banner of the Dutch Research Agenda (NWA). Wageningen University & Research is well represented in the programme.
The kick-off will include the current (or demissionary) Minister of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) as well as the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), who will articulate the role and added value of the programme within this large-scale transition. Prof. Olivier De Schutter, co-chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, will also be speaking. You will also be able to meet some of the experts from science and industry who will be working on the transition to a sustainable food system over the coming years.
Trans-disciplinary research project
Jeroen Candel of WUR’s Public Administration and Policy Group is involved with the project: “The future of the food system in the Netherlands is one of the biggest topics in the current cabinet formation. There are big questions about how governments and other stakeholders in the food system can influence policy in an effective and legitimate way. The launch of this large, trans-disciplinary research project, in which we will be investigating ways of accelerating the transition of the Dutch food system towards more sustainable outcomes, could therefore not have come at a better time.”
What are the problems with our food system?
Globally, 820 million people struggle to access sufficient calories in their diet. A further 2 billion people do not consume enough nutrients. The Covid crisis has worsened access to food and food security. Meanwhile, 2 billion people also suffer from illnesses related to overweight, such as diabetes and cancer. Too much food is also wasted, with a third of all the food produced every year ending up in the bin.
Climate change and loss of biodiversity
Food systems also contribute to climate change, loss of biodiversity and unsustainable water use. David Kleijn, an environmental researcher at WUR, says: “Biodiversity is the foundation of life on Earth, but the current food system actually diminishes biodiversity. We need to move towards a system that harnesses biodiversity as much as possible. In the long run, this will benefit both people and planet. As we transition to such a new system, it’s important to ensure that farmers are not the ones who shoulder the cost. It needs to be facilitated by society as a whole.”
Questions of social justice
There are also questions around the social justice aspects of the current food system. Wages are often low, and exploitative practices can affect seasonal workers, illegal migrants or children. Food supply chains are also focused on maximising production and minimising costs, which gives farmers little leverage.
That’s why it’s not enough to make the current food system more sustainable. This complex mix requires us to fundamentally reassess the food system. The project is focused on the Dutch food system but it will include international dimensions.
You can register here for the kick-off on 13 April (in Dutch).