Secure, safe, sustainable food systems: pre-congress workshop statement

Secure, safe, sustainable food systems: safe today, optimal for the future

Workshop Statement – 2 December 2016

1. Objective: Access to diverse nutritious food is a right for all.
2. Problem/Evidence: Current systems are not sustainable and ecologically-sound
3. Solution: An integrated approach involving the whole of society is needed.
4. Audience: Planetary health community

Key Points

1. Current food systems are not sustainable, and fail to provide nutritious food and good health for all.
2. We seek consensus on the transformation of food systems to address 21st Century challenges, to ensure good health for our planet and humanity.
3. We must work together as a global society to change our food systems to produce ethical, accessible and nutritious food for all.
4. This is our responsibility to ourselves, humanity and the earth.


Experts from 17 countries across 6 continents representing practitioners, researchers, policy makers and community development workers gathered at the University of Sydney to communicate priority areas in nutritional and environmental health for current food systems. The following statement is intended for the audience of the One Health Eco-Health Congress as well as responsible people at all levels. The Congress delegates are invited to consider this statement and how it could be incorporated as part of a legacy statement of the Congress.


We believe that food provision is among the most important and complex of human responsibilities. Our current food systems have met many of the challenges of previous centuries, but have had unforeseen consequences. A disconnect between food systems and human needs has both failed to eliminate undernutrition, and resulted in epidemics of over-nutrition and related non-communicable diseases. Locally and globally, food systems lack resilience in the face of environmental change and market fluctuations. They have become vulnerable to the effects of disease and climatic events. Corporate food systems reduce food to a commodity, eroding our social and cultural relationships to the food we eat. Inappropriate production impacts ecosystems (including soil, water, animals and plants) and generates excessive waste. Our contemporary food systems have created staggering human, financial and environmental costs, while support for the kind of research and development essential to overcoming the inadequacies of the current systems has declined markedly. This necessitates a realignment of food systems, in order to provide sufficient, safe and sovereign food within planetary boundaries.

A food system that ensures optimal health and wellbeing for our planet is possible. An integrated approach—one that involves the whole of society—can provide effective and equitable solutions to our contemporary challenges. The dual burden of under- and over-nutrition can be addressed by context-specific nutrition- and gender-sensitive approaches to sustainable food systems. Holistic approaches are key to addressing human and environmental risks associated with food supply. Practical intervention must be underpinned by interdisciplinary research and planning around all aspects of food and nutrition security, from soils, water, food production and processing to market chains, consumers and their health and safety, food wastage, and socio-cultural issues. A planetary health approach to the production of sustainable, nutritious, safe and ethical food, delivered to all with minimal waste, will promote human, animal and environmental wellbeing.


We call upon national, regional and municipal governments, UN and international agencies, corporations, landholders, business people, community organizations and citizens to recognize and act upon these facts:

  • That consumption is exceeding the planet’s bio-capacity, thus nutritional inadequacies are related to global resource decline which affects species survival, including the human species;
  • That gender, race/colour/ethnicity, poverty and forced displacement are key factors that delimit access to resources and possibilities to achieve optimal nutrition and wellbeing;
  • That agricultural, health, environmental and socio-economic policies need to be integrated, recognizing that good food is essential to good physical, mental and cultural health;
  • That food production policies need to account for both quality and quantity, society needs to recognize and value the true cost and benefit of quality food;
  • That agricultural frameworks, including subsidies and trade agreements, must support the production, distribution and marketing of food that promotes good health, and account for the external costs to communities, public health, the global economy and the planetary ecosystem;
  • That transparency, accountability, traceability and proportionality are essential to make decisions that support sustainability;
  • That recompense for inputs at all stages of the value chain must be adequate;
  • That regulatory frameworks need to align equity, safety, nutrition and ecology;
  • That agriculture-related pests, diseases, invasive species and anti-microbial resistance represent key threats to human and animal health that must be urgently addressed;
  • That financial and social support structures should be reoriented to recognize and support the role of women in ensuring nutritional wellbeing in their communities;
  • That people across the life cycle, including pregnant and lactating women, children, adolescents and the elderly in particular, have specific nutritional needs that must be attended to;
  • That all jurisdictions must understand the key importance of water in sustaining life, and negotiate fair use for all stakeholders across the full breadth of the waterscape;
  • That we need to reverse the loss of soil and its health;
  • While supporting the reality and potential benefit of globalization and global trade, that it is also essential to recognize that local communities will have specific food systems and dietary patterns that may need to be protected;
  • Given the importance of food production to local and global wellbeing, to ensure that policies recognize and extend the appropriate allocation of land and its tenure to enable sustainable and diverse agricultural production.

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