First Asia-Pacific EAT Forum shapes the future of food

Over 750 delegates from 30 countries congregated in Jakarta for two days at the inaugural EAT Asia-Pacific Food Forum on October 30 and 31, co-organized by the Indonesian Government and EAT Foundation. Created with the aim of facilitating cross-sectoral collaboration, the forum gathered the brightest minds from science, politics, business, civil society, farming and the culinary arts to share and uncover local, regional and global solutions to fixing the planet’s broken food system.

“We need more integrated knowledge on the links between food, planet and health,” said EAT Foundation President Gunhild A. Stordalen in her opening speech. “We need bold politicians collaborating across ministries to develop comprehensive policies linking food production and consumption. We need the private sector to create new products, services and sustainable business models. We need chefs to think up tasty dishes, making the right food irresistible, and civil society needs to hold us all accountable for our words and actions.”

“In Indonesia, we have a dilemma,” said H.E. Jusuf Kalla, the Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia, in his speech. “How can we meet basic food needs whilst also meeting housing needs and the needs of business? This is an important forum, establishing cooperation amongst stakeholders to meet food security, sustainability and quality.”

Hunger is on the rise again

Last month, the United Nations reported that after steady declines for over a decade, world hunger was one the rise again. This served as a stark reminder of the failures in today’s global food system. While 815 million people – more than one in 10 worldwide – suffer from undernutrition, one third of all food produced goes to waste. In parallel, overweight and obesity levels continue to increase, now affecting more than 2 billion children and adults.

“The economic consequences of undernutrition represent losses of gross domestic product of 10 percent annually,” said Dr. Subramaniam Sathasivam, Minister of Health of Malaysia. “Adult obesity is increasing in 190 countries and if the current trend continues, that number will rise from 1.3 billion in 2005 to 3.2 billion in 2030.”

Agriculture is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases

How we grow, process, transport, consume and waste food is also driving our global environmental crises. The agricultural sector is the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and a major contributor to deforestation, species extinction, and the depletion of marine systems and fresh water resources. As hunger rises, greater pressure mounts on an already overstretched and inefficient food system, further accelerating climate change and ecological decline.

“95 percent of global trade comes from eight countries – if we have a drought in any of those eight countries it is going to affect food availability and food prices,” said Dr. Jason Clay, Senior Vice President of Markets and Food at WWF. “In the 21st century, sustainability needs to be a pre- competitive issue.”

Fixing our food system provides great opportunities

Whether in Asia-Pacific or other regions across the planet, it’s the interlinkages between these threats that define their urgent potency and paradoxically provide the greatest opportunities for action. Just as the challenges are intimately intertwined, the greatest prospects for the future lie in integrated actions across sectors, disciplines and continents.

According to the Business & Sustainable Development Commission, sustainable business models could open economic opportunities in the food and agriculture sector worth more than USD 2 trillion and increase employment with hundreds of millions of jobs by 2030.

“Our global population is expected to balloon to 9.5 billion by 2050 and will present challenges to the planet,” said CEO of Olam International Sunny Verghese. “The EAT Forum increases our sensibilities to these challenges, and presents an opportunity to combine learnings from all stakeholders to solve these challenges. EAT’s leadership is timely and needed.”

As the most populous region in the world and home to global hubs for business, science, biodiversity and innovation, the Asia-Pacific is in a position to play a decisive role in leading this urgent food transformation, helping the world achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

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