The unity in action posture was approved at the recent meeting of the Executive Committee of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), in which the 31 participating countries endorsed a resolution stating that farmers must be duly represented at the Summit and their central role in the provision of food must be recognized.
The unified position of the countries of the Americas is centered around 16 key messages and will be demonstrated, starting in July, at the Pre-Summit of the global meeting in Rome. These principles are included in the document “On the road to the UN Food Systems Summit: key messages from the perspective of agriculture in the Americas”, which the countries themselves contributed to, through coordinated work with IICA.
The document contains 16 key messages about the critical role of agriculture, stressing that farmers and food systems’ workers are an essential and central chain in food systems, and that without agricultural production there would be no raw material to transform into food.
The messages also define agriculture as a fundamental activity in eradicating poverty, driving rural development and protecting the natural environment.
The Food Systems Pre-Summit will be held in Rome from 26 – 28 July. IICA will attend, as a member of the Summit Champions Network—one of the meeting’s support structures—which it joined in its capacity as a representative of the agriculture and rural sectors of North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.
IICA proposed these general principles: that farmers should be duly represented; that decisions and policies should be science-based; and that agriculture is part of the solution to the main problems facing humanity.
The key messages were defined on this basis and modified based on the contributions arising from an exhaustive discussion process. They were then grouped into four categories: transformation of agri-food systems; consumer demand and nutritional aspects; production strategies and environmental matters; and the role of the Americas.
The 16 key messages that the countries of the Americas will take to the Food Systems Summit are as follows:
Agri-food system transformation
Message 1. In recent decades, global food systems have successfully met the food demand, which has been increasing, due to population growth and greater per capita income. Thus, future transformations should build on the system’s demonstrated strengths and the contributions that have already been made.
Message 2. Farmers and food system workers are an essential and central link in food systems. Without agricultural production, there would be no raw material to transform into food, thereby seriously endangering food security. Moreover, agriculture is central to eradicating poverty, driving rural development and protecting the natural environment.
Message 3. The transformation of global food systems should strike a balance between the following attributes: the capacity to increase food production levels and variety; health and safety; nutritional diversity and quality; and environmental, economic and social sustainability. It is apparent that there is no one model and the balances and trade-offs will differ according to country and subregion; thus, transformation should be gradual, in keeping with the responsibilities, realities and specificities of each location, guaranteeing that no one is left behind.
Message 4. Open, transparent and predictable international trade is essential for an efficient global food system and should be governed by multilateral regulations, with a view to promoting agricultural liberalization and reducing tariff and non-tariff restrictions. Multilateral systems must be afforded an increasingly active role in limiting and reducing the distortion of trade and production and ensuring the adoption and application of science-based sanitary and phytosanitary measures.
Consumer demand and nutritional aspects
Message 5. Consumers should be allowed to make their own decisions, based on historical and cultural factors and on accessibility and availability, among other considerations, and these decisions should be respected. The State should educate and inform the public about healthy diets and should develop prevention campaigns to safeguard public health, based on the latest information and scientific evidence.
Message 6. High-quality proteins, carbohydrates (cereals and sugars), fats and fortified and biofortified foods are needed to ensure a balanced and nutritious diet that contributes to human health.
Message 7. The desired and necessary increase in fruit, legume and vegetable consumption will only be possible if significant effort is made to produce them and to educate the population about the consumption of these products and about the associated trade logistics, which will make them more competitive and accessible, particularly to lower-income consumers.
Message 8. The implementation of sustainable production systems throughout the entire value chain, within the context of One Health or other approaches that are beneficial to public health, is a useful strategy to develop agri-food systems that maximize health-related results, by recognizing the inter-connection between people, animals, plants and the environment that they share.
Production strategies and environmental factors
Message 9. The new frontiers of science and technology represent a strategic opportunity to move towards developing a more productive and sustainable agriculture sector, given that they facilitate greater precision and efficiency. The circular economy and the bioeconomy, which focus on efficient resource use (including sustainable production intensification), reduction and reuse of agricultural production waste for the production of other goods, and investment in research and development (R+D) are key aspects of this new scenario.
Message 10. Food production systems are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The challenges imposed by climate change have now made it necessary to focus on adaptation efforts, in order to guarantee the resilience of the system and to maintain the necessary production levels for food security. Agricultural production should move in the direction of sustainable systems that provide a balance between carbon emission and carbon capture, while considering positive external factors resulting from ecosystem services, all of which will require systems that quantify and promote their usage. The new technologies contribute to reconciling agricultural production with environmental and ecosystem health, which is an indispensable factor for agriculture’s resilience.
Message 11. Achieving a more balanced and efficient food system will require an investment plan for widescale development of technology and production, transportation, and logistics infrastructure. For these investments to be effective, countries must design and execute medium-term strategic plans that facilitate the creation of public-private partnerships. States should invest in basic infrastructure and public goods, into which private actors may then channel their investments. These efforts will call for significant support from international cooperation and financing.
The role of the Americas
Message 12. The Americas contribute to global food and nutritional security, by being the main food exporting region and the largest ecosystem service provider and source of biodiversity. The region is also critical to environmental sustainability and the mitigation of climate change effects at the global level.
Message 13. For agriculture to contribute to achieving these global balances, there must be production inclusion and social protection policies geared towards ensuring social and economic sustainability and addressing the deficiencies experienced by the most vulnerable sectors in rural areas. These policies should apply to the entire spectrum of producers and pay special attention to the needs of family farmers, youth, rural women and peasant and indigenous groups.
Message 14. Agricultural producers are at the heart of agri-food systems in the Americas, operating within a wide variety of systems and production approaches, including family farming. It is therefore essential that they participate in the debate about and the design of the differentiated strategies to be implemented.
Message 15. The Caribbean requires special consideration, given that it is a food import-dependent subregion, subject to natural disasters and climate change and made up of smaller island States that are less competitive in agriculture. Strengthening resilience to climate events, reducing levels of food insecurity and applying international cooperation and financing approaches to deal with the new models are priorities that should be considered, particularly with respect to the Eastern Caribbean and Haiti.
Message 16. The food insecurity in the Northern Triangle of Central America, with its consequent social, economic and environmental implications, deserves special attention.