Feed Bites

We Must Engage...or Let Others Set Our Agenda

Written by: Constance Cullman   |   February 5, 2021

Trade, Our role in ag, Environmental footprint, Member value

The United Nations is known for holding large meetings and frequently, we don’t feel the impact of what they do – but its latest Food Systems Summit is not one of those times.

Driven by the intergovernmental organization’s 10-year deadline to achieve measurable progress toward meeting its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the U.N. secretary-general launched the Food Systems Summit with the ultimate event scheduled for Sept. 26 in New York City. The effort is aimed at developing and unveiling “bold actions” to guide countries around the world in transforming their food systems to achieve the UN SDGs. It will also result in policy recommendations that will influence international standards and global trade discussions for decades.

The goals are ones we can all get behind – and frankly, ones we in the feed industry have all been working toward for a very long time! If you clicked on the link above you probably agree with such goals as “achieving zero hunger, good health and well-being,” “clean water” and “responsible consumption and production.” There is not much disagreement with the summit’s vision and principles, but as is often the case, there remains the need to discuss how we get there in a global trading environment. And boy – does our industry have a lot to contribute!

It is at this juncture I want to share my concerns with the summit. Quite honestly, it is hard to get information about how the U.N. wants input or when they want it.

Preliminary working papers demonstrate a clear lack of input from those working with modern food systems and unfortunately include drastic policy recommendations that are very critical of the technologies and innovations used in the U.S. feed industry and in other advanced agricultural production systems.

It is not entirely surprising given that many of the outside leadership for the summit’s exercises are ones that have rarely agreed with advancements in agriculture or in allowing for freedom in dietary choices. The appointed leadership includes Gunhild Stordalen, the Norwegian billionaire who you may remember is behind the plant-based EAT-Lancet diet that calls for the virtual elimination of animal protein from all diets, which in our view, would only remove nutritious protein from the mouths of those who are already struggling with having enough to eat and malnutrition. Also joining her are leaders who have actively supported the EU Farm to Fork strategy, which you know from my last blog I argue only will take tools away from producers without providing a reliable regulatory system for innovations and technologies that could improve animal nutrition and health from making it to market. 

It is certain that some of these U.N. summit leaders will advocate for the intergovernmental organization to establish targets and global commitments that ignore the role of science and innovation in meeting sustainability goals. Instead, they will likely push for:

  • Drastically reducing crop protection and fertilizer use;
  • Eliminating the judicious use of antibiotics in animal agriculture;
  • Limiting the use of biotech crops; and
  • Proposing dietary policies that limit consumers’ access and choice and reduce consumption of “processed” food, sugar, salt, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy.

We cannot let them succeed in setting our agenda.

Fortunately, there are a few U.N. participants that understand the need for innovation and early efforts by the U.S. government, industry members and other like-minded country governments have begun to make a difference. But a much larger push is needed.

This challenge requires all of food and agriculture to step forward and talk about what we do. Share the progress we have made, and are making, on meeting the global need for nutritious, affordable and widely available calories while protecting the environment for future generations. And it's time for us to talk about how we have the ability as biogenic systems to be solution providers to the Earth’s most daunting challenges.

U.S. food and agriculture knows what it will take to reach the U.N.’s SDGs – we are making strides every day. We know how to out-think the challenges nature throws at us. We are up for the challenge of sustainably feeding a growing population. And we know it's not by looking backward. It’s not by banning the use of proven technologies. And it is certainly not by taking animal agriculture out of the food system.

The American Feed Industry Association is fully engaged in coming together with the U.S. food and agricultural industry and counterparts across the globe to bring the animal food industry’s voice to the discussion. We are working constructively to contribute real world, proven experiences and approaches to the U.N. process with the goal of ensuring that innovation and access to diverse production systems and diets is a prominent part of U.N. Food Systems Summit outcomes.

Sitting on the sidelines and ceding the argument to those who don’t know what it takes to get the job done is not an option. We need your help. Please contact us to learn how to get involved.


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