Towards sustainable food systems: next steps

The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands has asked Wageningen University and Research to deliver a substantive expert contribution to the Implementation and Vision Document of the Minstrty ' Food Systems, the Dutch situation and circular agriculture'.Wageningen Economic Research will write a reflection paper. This paper will be presented on 4 September during the "Joint OECD / Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands meeting".

The key message of this paper is that food system perspectives and food system innovations are needed to enable the transformation to a more sustainable and healthy food system on a global scale. This transformation is important as the planet and its inhabitants face urgent food related problems such as climate change, environmental pollution, loss of biodiversity, and insufficient affordable food and unhealthy diets. Such a food transformation requires action from all actors in the food system. This chapter focuses on what policy would encourage the transition to a more sustainable and healthy food system.

The food system perspective goes beyond the food chain perspective of production, processing, distribution and consumption. As the root causes for urgent food related challenges are part of food system structures and dynamics potential solutions to global food challenges are to be found in a wider than food chain perspective. We recommend policy to use the food system perspective as it takes into account, among others, social, political, economic and environmental drivers of food chain activities, and allows to include feedback loops. The food system approach helps to clarify the trade-offs between intervention strategies and system outcomes in all three (socially, economically and environmentally) sustainability dimensions. More specifically, taking a food system approach will help policy to identify effective intervention points and to design appropriate policy measures that contribute to at least one sustainability dimension without compromising others.