Call for structured dialogue in order to transform food systems successfully

Published on
July 28, 2021

Louise O. Fresco, president of the executive board of Wageningen University & Research (WUR), calls for a structured intergovernmental dialogue between scientists, policy makers and businesses. Only then will the world be able to address problems in current food systems. Fresco made her point during an online pre-summit of the United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFFS). The main summit will be held in September.

According to Fresco the main summit in September should not be the end but merely a beginning of an ongoing conversation. In this continuous dialogue, there is no sense to talk about one food system, because there are ‘tens of thousands food systems’.

Restore trust

The president of WUR also talked about the need to restore trust. “Many people recognize the importance of agriculture, food and nutrition, but there is no general consensus on the way ahead. Many industrialized western countries food has become a bone of contention. There are so many areas of discourse; animal welfare, climate change, use of chemicals and genetic techniques. Often there is miscommunication or misinformation, but also differences in opinion. This increasingly leads to confusion, and even doubts about the scientific evidence base. Science seems to become more a supermarket of ideas and facts are construed, no more than an expression or partial interests and values. This results in a lack of trust and disagreement about the best way forward.”

Science diplomacy

And yet there is need for science-based pathways. Fresco: “Science is an intersubjective learning process and increasingly engages with civil society. Science is truly international and can help policy makers and countries to determine new pathways forward and learn from others. In other words, science diplomacy. Time has come to bridge the gaps between science and policy, to overcome disagreements about facts, interests and values. Roundtables and dialogues are required that connect scientists, governments, civil society (including NGOs and consumer organizations) and private companies, including farmers. Above all creating trust and commitment to tackle food challenges is priority.”

Important questions

Fresco’s statements were echoed by other participants of the pre-summit. Peter Bakker, president and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), said he believes solutions to problems in food systems cannot be solved without answering important questions together. Questions such as ‘what is the true value of food’ are essential according to Bakker, in order to ‘mobilize businesses worldwide’. Louise O. Fresco closed the online pre-summit saying ‘mobilizing the private sector for the public good is essential’ when transforming food systems. Because there isn’t a single modern country in which ‘the government will bake the bread’.