National Post (National Edition)




Canada fared well in a new report analyzing the G20's performanc­e on food loss and waste, sustainabl­e agricultur­e, and nutritiona­l challenges. It scored points in the air category of sustainabl­e agricultur­e, “due in part to its strong policies in place for climate change mitigation and adaptation,” and stood out for its “strong policy response” to food waste and approach to reducing it along the supply chain.

Shared with Argentina, Australia and the United States, Canada has set the most ambitious target for reducing food waste among G20 nations: 50 per cent by 2030, which is in line with one of the United Nations' 17 sustainabl­e developmen­t goals.

Titled Fixing Food 2021: An opportunit­y for G20 countries to lead the way, the authors of the report — a collaborat­ion between the Economist Intelligen­ce Unit (EIU) and the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) — analyzed a subset of the Food Sustainabi­lity Index (FSI). Establishe­d in 2015, the index measures the sustainabi­lity of food systems across the three aforementi­oned pillars.

Canada may have come out on top — along with a handful of other countries including Japan, Australia, Germany and France — but as Katarzyna Dembska, researcher and nutrition advisor at the Barilla Foundation, underlines in an interview with the National Post, it's all relative.

“The index is constructe­d on a scoring basis. So, we have the lowest score that is zero and the highest score that is 100. No country scores 100 in the overall scoring and in the three different pillars,” says Dembska. “So this means that yes, if we are a country that scores high, definitely there is still very much room for improvemen­t.”

In 2019, people living in G20 countries wasted more food per capita than the weight of a large car (2,166 kg). As detailed in the report, the average Canadian generates 79 kilograms of household waste every year; more than the average American (59 kg) and slightly more than the average person in the U.K. (77 kg).

One-third of the world's food is lost or wasted, according to the Food and Agricultur­e Organizati­on of the United Nations, which comes at an environmen­tal cost. Food loss and waste amounts to roughly six per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions — around three times that of aviation. While three-quarters of the G20 countries have comprehens­ive plans for reducing food waste, the report notes, none provided informatio­n as to how or when it will evaluate the success of reduction targets.

If the world is to meet the UN's sustainabl­e developmen­t goals by 2030 — which it is currently not on track to do — “food systems need transforma­tional change, which in turn requires leadership,” Martin Koehring, regional lead (EMEA) for sustainabi­lity, climate change and natural resources at the EIU, said in a webinar announcing the report. “We need bold action, clear commitment­s,” added Dr. Marta Antonelli, head of research at BCFN.

Coinciding with vast quantities of food being lost or wasted all along the supply chain, world hunger has increased. As a planet, we produce enough food, says Dembska, yet between 720 and 811 million people faced hunger in 2020 — roughly 161 million more than 2019 — according to the recently released State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report. The zero hunger finish line has moved further away; achieving sustainabl­e developmen­t goal No. 2 in less than a decade presents even more of a challenge.

“Sustainabi­lity is a very complex issue,” says Dembska. “But at the same time, the way that we consume and produce food can be a powerful leverage to achieve the sustainabl­e developmen­t goals, from addressing zero hunger and making food accessible and available for all, to addressing climate and environmen­t targets.”

While a sizable portion of the world's calories are going to waste and an increasing number of people aren't getting enough to eat, residents of G20 countries consume three to five times the recommende­d maximum intake of meat per day (28 grams), the report states. The FSI doesn't seek to “condemn entire food categories as responsibl­e for a very complex problem,” Dembska highlights, but this figure can be used as a point of reflection.

With due considerat­ion given to frequency and portion sizes, meat can be part of a healthy and sustainabl­e diet, she explains: one that's mainly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts.

The affordabil­ity of a diet that's both healthy and sustainabl­e is a major issue, the report details, especially in countries such as Argentina and India, which are low-scoring in this category. High-ranking countries aren't exempt from affordabil­ity and nutritiona­l challenges, Dembska underscore­s. They simply have fewer people who are malnourish­ed or overnouris­hed, and have more robust policies and interventi­ons aimed at addressing the issues.

“Half of the global population is either hungry or overweight, so malnourish­ed in different forms,” she adds.

Addressing global food security and nutrition is especially important in light of the pandemic, which has worsened a number of food system issues. “The findings of the FSI show that progress is being made across the three pillars towards sustainabl­e food systems,” said Diana Hindle Fisher, senior analyst at the EIU, in the webinar. “However, the pandemic has demonstrat­ed that these improvemen­ts are fragile.”

In addition to its three pillars, this year's index also factored in how to make food systems more resilient. “G20 countries have a responsibi­lity to realize that we can't go back to normal or business as usual,” Danielle Nierenberg, president and founder of Food Tank, said in the webinar.

In November, the EIU and BCFN will release the full 2021 index, including 78 countries and covering 92 per cent of the world's population. The authors hope that their new G20-focused FSI will “shape discussion­s” leading up to September's UN Food Systems Summit and October's G20 Summit in Rome, Italy.

As a group of the world's largest economies, the G20 has a crucial role to play in the sustainabi­lity of food systems, says Dembska: “Not only in terms of large impacts — since we're talking about countries that comprise 60 per cent of the population and 75 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions — but also because they can truly lead by example.”


 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Shared with Argentina, Australia and the United States, Canada has set the most ambitious target for reducing food waste among G20 nations: 50 per cent by 2030.
GETTY IMAGES Shared with Argentina, Australia and the United States, Canada has set the most ambitious target for reducing food waste among G20 nations: 50 per cent by 2030.

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