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Friday, June 2, 2023
HANOI, Apr 20 2023 (IPS) - Last month, Nature spotlighted three insightful new studies chronicling food-related challenges from a global perspective. One presented worrisome new data on the global rise in the prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure and liver disease, all linked to obesity. Another presented a new assessment revealing that half of the greenhouse emissions generated by food systems globally are caused by food waste. Finally, the third study found that food consumption could add “nearly 1 degree Celsius to warming by 2100,” with most of that attributed to global methane emissions from meat, dairy and rice production.
Studies like these are valuable for focusing attention on the need for a fundamental reset from farm to fork in the way food is produced and consumed around the world. But we also must recognize their limits.
Chiefly, that solutions to the problems they skillfully document will fail unless adapted to specific social, political and economic contexts on the ground.
The contrasts we documented can be instructive for other countries as well. As a fast-growing, rapidly urbanizing middle-income country that still has a large rural population, Vietnam is an ideal living laboratory for studying the essential role of local food environments in shaping solutions to global food challenges.
In our work, we roamed the colorful, richly stocked open-air markets and modern retail outlets of urban Hanoi. We traveled just outside the city to study the food landscape in the populous peri-urban area of Dong Anh.
We visited the rural highlands of the Moc Chau district in Son La Province, where people rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Along the way, we surveyed thousands of people to learn about where they purchased food and what they ate. Here are a few key lessons that emerged.
Two years ago, 51,000 people from 193 countries participated in the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit—with many likely to return for this summer’s eagerly anticipated follow-up.
They are committed to a transformation of a global food system many view as fundamentally broken. The latest scientific studies chronicling food-related impacts to human and planetary health—alongside the recent shocks to the global food system caused by Covid pandemic—certainly support this view.
Our work reveals that food system challenges vary considerably depending on where you live—and that developing effective solutions requires a focused effort to detect these differences. It means if we want to achieve a more sustainable food system transformation, we must think globally but act locally.
Tuyen Huynh is a leading food systems expert and senior researcher at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT
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