Agriculture, trade and obesity prevention
Irela Mazar
Nutrition and Consumer Protection
Division (AGN/FAO)
FAO's mandate is to raise levels of
nutrition, improve agricultural
productivity, better the lives of rural
populations and contribute to the
growth of the world economy
FAO has recognized the growing obesity
epidemic occurring not only in the developed
world but also among all income and
socioeconomic groups of the developing world.
In response, FAO and the World Health
Organization (WHO) have
collaborated together in joint initiatives
recognition was given early on to the
consequences of excess energy balance, that is,
overweight and obesity. The first committee on
calories offered the very practical rule of thumb that
if the person ‘is in good health and calorie balance,
that is, neither over nor underweight, then he or
she is consuming food according to his or her
calorie requirements.’
The early committees had the insight of
adding the notion of maintaining an adequate
level of energy expenditure, thus recognizing
that leisure activities and health promoting
activities were important
“Globesity” is fast becoming a serious threat to the
health of every nation striving for economic
Developing countries face double
burden of malnutrition
Poor maternal nutrition and low birth weight
increases risk of obesity and NCDs later in life
Poverty, hunger and undernutrition are
linked to chronic diseases
Food & Nutrition Security, Poverty Reduction and
Sustainable Economic Development
Food and Nutrition
Economic Development
• Are hunger and malnutrition an outcome of
poverty? - or a cause of poverty?
• Is the alleviation of poverty essential for reducing
malnutrition, or is reducing malnutrition essential
for alleviating poverty?
Role of agriculture in the global economy
Agriculture provides much more than commodities.
It is a way of life.
When practised sustainably, it assures food security,
conservation of national resources, environmental
stability and employment. It contributes to social
stability and cohesion, and maintenance of cultural
FAO is placing emphasis on actions that
promote an increase in the supply,
access and consumption of an adequate
quantity, quality and variety of foods for
all population groups
food and nutrition security is realized when all
people, at all times, have physical, social and
economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious
food to meet their dietary needs and food
preferences for an active and healthy life.
Biodiversity and Nutrition
Led by FAO and Bioversity International (former
IPGRI), under the umbrella of the Convention of
Biological Diversity, there is an international,
multidisciplinary initiative that recognizes the
essential role of biodiversity and promotes its
sustainable use for food security and nutrition, as a
contribution to the achievement of the Millenium
Development Goals (CDB, 2005)
Promoting the conservation & sustainable
use of biodiversity for food and nutrition
Biodiversity on 3 levels: genetic, species and
ecosystem -,contributes to improved nutrition
Nutrition and biodiversity converge as one
common path leading to food and nutrition
security and sustainable development.
Some facts
• The worldwide trend is towards dietary simplification, with
consequent negative impacts on food security, nutrition and
• Globalization, industrial development, population increase &
urbanization have changed patterns of food production &
consumption in ways that profoundly affect ecosystems and
human diets;
• Diets low in variety but high in energy contribute to the
escalating problems of obesity and chronic disease which
are increasingly found alongside micronutrient deficiencies
and undernourishment;
• The causes and consequences of the dramatic reduction of
food diversity and the simplification of diets are complex and
are not limited to specific cultures.
Statements and recommendations
• FAO will actively encourage the consumption of foods,
particularly those available locally, that contribute to
diversified and balance diets, as the best means of
addressing micronutrient deficiencies and other forms
of malnutrition, especially among vulnerable groups
(World Summit on Food Security, Rome, 2009)
• “to accelerate the transition towards sustainability”
(21st Session of the FAO Committee on Agriculture)
Definition of Sustainable Diets
Sustainable Diets are those diets with low
environmental impacts which contribute to
food and nutrition security and to healthy life
for present and future generations.
Sustainable diets are protective and
respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems,
culturally acceptable, accessible,
economically fair and affordable; nutritionally
adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing
natural and human resources.
(FAO Symposium on Sustainable Diets, Rome, Nov.2010)
FAO activities in biodiversity and
sustainable diets aim to:
• highlight biodiversity, food production and food
consumption as interconnected elements;
• provide more eco-friendly food recommendations to
consumers and help clarify what is required for an
environmentally- sustainable food chain;
The purpose is to promote a broader assessment of the
link between local food products, biodiversity, food
and nutrition security and sustainability
Fruit and Vegetable Initiative for Health
A framework for promoting fruit and vegetable was
established by FAO and WHO in 2004 to guide the
development of cost-effective and effective
interventions for the promotion of adequate
consumption of fruits and vegetables for health at
national or sub-national level.
General principles
Acceptability – quality, taste, safety, type of food, cultural
Equity – including underprivileged
Holistic or integrative approach
Marketing and creating awareness of fruits and vegetables
in foods and food programmes
Narrowing the Nutrition Gap
Improving food security may be achieved through
narrowing the gap between current and potential
production yields. Similarly, improving the food-based
aspects of nutrition security can be thought of in
terms of narrowing the “nutrition gap” – the gap
between current food intake patterns and intake
patterns that are optimal in terms of macro and
micronutrient content.
Pathways through which agricultural
interventions can contribute to narrowing the
nutrition gap
• Increasing small-scale production of micronutrient rich foods;
• Increasing commercial production of micronutrient rich foods;
• Reduction of post-harvest losses to maintain micronutrient
levels in commonly eaten foods;
• Plant selection and breeding to increase micronutrient levels;
• Education and social marketing strategies that increase
consumption of micronutrient rich foods;
• Including nutritionists in agricultural research-planning teams;
• Promoting gender-sensitive agricultural technology where
Agriculture policy helps drive decisions about what
crops are grown, and influences the market price of
each crop.
Sustainable agriculture provides many economic
and non-economic benefits, such as contributing to
local quality of life, providing fresh, wholesome
foods and conserving the environment to allow for
future productivity.
Common features of successful approaches to
national policy & programme development for
improving food and nutrition security
• strong commitment to improving nutritional well-being and
securing everyone’s right to food;
• comprehensive understanding of food and nutrition security;
• strong coordination and joint planning among ministries agriculture and health - should work together and explore
more closely synergies and how they could be better linked;
• emphasis on capacity building and training;
• gender mainstreaming;
Nutrition and its related main development sectors
The 2012 Olympics provide
an ideal opportunity to
encourage people to do
more exercise
Focus on:
• food and agriculture, not just on public health
• people and farmer’s not just on farm and pharmacies;
• consumption and utilization, not just on increasing
production, raising incomes and improving access;
• the nutritional quality, diversity and safety of food, not
just on quantity (energy) adequacy;
• the provision of evidence to document the impact foods
and improved diets have on human health, growth and
mental development;
(cont.) Focus on:
• nutrition education especially in view of the evidence that
agricultural improvements alone do not necessarily lead
to improvements in diets;
• advocacy to help create policy, institutional, social and
physical environments that are conducive to ensuring
access by all people to nutritionally adequate diets
Joining forces to protect and improve
All global actions for improving nutrition should reflect a
comprehensive and balanced approach involving all sectors in
recognition of the fact that agriculture, health and social
protection can all make important and significant contributions
to improving nutrition
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations. (FAO)
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153 Rome, Italy
mailto:[email protected]
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