Fix the food, and we fix the planet

FOOD research project
By Reidar Molthe

21 June 2018 14:58

Fix the food, and we fix the planet

Professor Johan Rockström in this chronicle shares views of vital interest globally and locally. What is most important for the world economy and future welfare; that we avoid steel tariffs or that we have a sugar tax, he asks?

Johan Rockström
Johan Rockström Photo: M. Axelson

That we have free financial markets or a global price of coal? That we stop the waste of antibiotics, or that the airplane continues to slip on tax-free clouds? We have created a world order where we are incapable of seeing what’s important - our health and the planet's health. Instead, we allow short-term economic issues to dominate the political agenda and the logic of society.

We, as citizens and our decision-makers, have been configured to perceive issues such as free trade and anything that threatens the free market, as crucial to the economy. Here we are comfortable with hearing, day in and day out, about threats, risks, and speech about global regulations. We can even pull countries before the WTO Court, which the EU is now threatening the United States! But when it comes to environment, health, food, then it's impossible. Everything that smells of regulation is immediately received as a threat to the economy.

About johan Rockström

Johan Rockström (53) is executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Center and teaches natural resource management at Stockholm University.  He is an internationally recognized scientist on global sustainability issues and serves on several scientific committees and boards.

Obviously, our society is designed to sweep the most essential under the carpet. What is most important, really?

Is a guardian agreement between Trump and Kim Jong-Un, which the whole world now considers to be the most crucial to mankind, more important than to arrange a special call-in G20 meeting or UN Security Council to stop the global diabetes and obesity pandemic? Overweight contributed to 7% of all deaths in the world 2015, more than death due to road accidents, Alzheimer's and terrorism, together. In this perspective, "Rocket Man’s" rockets appear to be a rather marginal phenomenon.

Cheap sugar and cheap fat

The problem above all is cheap, calorie-packed and sugar-rich food. Everything from soda, candy and fast food. A global sugar tax is needed to reduce the threat. The WHO has recently stated that, but it was never assumed. Especially because the United States refused...

And why not a special summoned presidential meeting to stop the growing risk of global antibiotic resistance, which is largely caused by the meat industry. Not the Swedish, but the one on the free market exports to Sweden. Not so clever either for Swedish economy or global health.

Food is a threat to the climate

Scientifically, we know today that food is the single biggest threat to the climate and the environment on Earth. Food causes up to 30% of greenhouse gas emissions (if we include deforestation), is the main cause of biodiversity loss, eutrophication, and land degradation. Simply put, we fix the food, and we fix the health for people and the planet. But this never gets any headlines, and never generates any top summits.

Last week, Norway and Sweden tried to change this. By hosting the 2018 EAT Forum, held for the fifth consecutive year in Stockholm, which brings together actors from all over the world in research, industry and policy for healthy and sustainable food.

We must eat us to a healthy future

The message was clear. Our own Per Bolund, Minister for Finance, concluded that we must eat us to an economic and healthy future! I would love to hear more about that in the election movement.

The World Bank CEO, Kristalina Georgieva, reminded us that we never reach the UN Agenda 2030 without a food revolution. And financially and politically, there were many who stressed that we cannot wait for everyone to consciously choose "right food”. The path to success is a mix of grass- root movements and leaders who regulate and tax, and thus create game rules for the market and the consumer. The situation is serious, we are in a hurry and we have everything to win, since healthy and sustainable food often goes hand in hand. When we always make the right choice - without even thinking about it, then we have succeeded.

NHH do not decide whether the solutions Johan Rockström proposes are optimal, however we agree that the questions put forward are vital.

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