Food Summit image via the International Science Council

The UN’s Food Systems Summit was held last week in New York. This sounds like it ought to be a good thing, given the sense of impending crisis around the food sector. But a lot of people aren’t happy about it. There have been protests by people who say they have been excluded from the process, critical op-ed articles, and pre-summit withdrawals by some invited stakeholders.

At The Counter Lela Nargi wrote a good explainer of what’s going on:

At the pre-summit, global leaders declared intentions to forge an international road map for the future of agriculture on a rapidly changing planet. They were “expected to step up and launch bold new actions, solutions, partnerships, and strategies” to vastly improve food and ag systems. “That’s where the decisions (were) made,” explained professor Molly Anderson about the decision to protest the pre-summit. “The cake (was) baked at the pre-summit and the summit will be the celebration where they eat the cake.”

‘Tech-heavy, corporate centric’

Anderson has some skin in this game. She is a member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), which has withdrawn its participation in the Summit, criticising ‘opaque methods of decision-making and a favoring of tech-heavy, corporate-centric private sector voices.’

At heart, this dispute is about competing values and visions of a food future. Anderson’s perspective is that the UN Summit is over-interested in tech food futures such as digitisation, gene editing, and precision agriculture, which “won’t help the poorest and hungriest people in the world very much, and will make the gap between the very poor and hungry and the wealthy even wider than it is now.” In contrast:

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