The pathway to the Shangri-La for food

Published October 30, 2017

It’s on! More than 700 delegates have come to Jakarta for the inaugural EAT Asia-Pacific Food Forum to address the challenges and opportunities for today’s food systems.
EAT Foundation President Dr. Gunhild A. Stordalen kicked off the first day speaking about where want to go and how to get there. This is her full speech:

Your Excellency, Vice-President of The Republic of Indonesia, Bapak Yusuf Kalla
Your Excellency, Coordinating Minister of Human Development & Culture, Ibu Puan Ma-Harani
Your Excellency, Minister of Health, Ibu Nila Moeloek,
Dear colleagues and friends: Good morning!

We´re all here to talk about food;
to solve great challenges.
But most importantly, to grasp opportunities!

When I was finalizing this speech last night,
it struck me that our hotel is called Shangri-La.
According to the myth,
Shangri-La is a beautiful place – a paradise on earth – so I got thinking:
imagine the Shangri-La for food!
A place where healthy, sustainable and delicious food is accessible and affordable.
For everyone, everywhere.

Now, imagine that together, we had the power to make that vision real!

Today, we do!
But we have a long way to go:
Right now, our food system is failing both us and the planet:

Food is at the heart of a growing global health crisis:
If we include those getting too little, too much or the wrong types of food, around half the world´s population is malnourished – and unhealthy diets are now linked to one in five deaths globally.

Food is also driving some of our greatest environmental challenges:
the agricultural sector is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
And the main driver of deforestation, biodiversity loss and destruction of ecosystems

Food and beverage make up the world´s largest economic sector.
Yet, the sector is both unfair and inefficient;
More than 1 billion people work to produce and serve food every day – including some of the world´s poorest, such as the 500 million small holder farmers.
At the same time, 1/3 of what we produce gets lost or wasted!

Each and every one of these challenges is alarming, but as they are heavily interlinked, they are also compounding each other.
We got a stark reminder of this last month:
the United Nations released a report showing that – after more than a decade of steady decline, world hunger is once again on the rise – due mainly to conflict and climate change.
And with agriculture as the main climate emitter, increased food production is likely to further threaten food security.

It´s a vicious cycle.

But just as we are starting to understand the full complexity of food, we´re also beginning to uncover the many synergies:

A growing number of scientists agree that plant-based food from sustainable production systems – is better for both people – and the planet.

Of course, there will be regional variation and trade-offs.
But there is robust scientific evidence showing that such diets can not only mitigate health & environmental problems – but even prevent them!

On top of this, it could also boost the economy!
According to the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, a food system that is healthy, fair, sustainable and inclusive could create hundreds of millions of jobs
– and generate more than 2 trillion dollars of new economic value by 2030.

So, what will it take to get us there?

We need more integrated knowledge on the links between food, planet and health, and clear science-based targets for the Shangri-La for food.
We need bold politicians collaborating across ministries to develop comprehensive policies linking food production and consumption.
We need private sector – from the multinationals to local entrepreneurs – to create new products, services and sustainable business models.
We need chefs to think up tasty dishes, making the right food irresistible
and civil society needs to hold us all accountable for our words and actions.

As we will see over the next two days, a lot of this is already happening!
But to help turn all these great efforts and siloed champions into one game-changing movement, we must come together and work together.

And that´s why we´re all here.

Because EAT brings together leaders from all over the world, from every sector and with diverse backgrounds.
We believe the secret to success is much like the magic of food itself:
extraordinary things happen when people gather around a table!

From the start, the Indonesian Minister of Health, H.E. Ibu Nila Moeloek, has played a vital role in shaping the EAT agenda, stressing the importance of linking global problems to local solutions.
Her vision was to see an EAT Forum in every region, and took lead in hosting the first Asia-Pacific Food Forum in Jakarta.

So here we are!

In the world´s most populous region.
The most adaptable and innovative.
With the fastest growing economies.

What happens here will play a decisive role –
not only for shaping the future of this region,
but in defining the course for the entire planet!

Under the leadership of Ibu Nila, several Indonesian ministries have collaborated with EAT to make this forum a reality.
And as delegates, you have come from across the globe, heeding the call for action:

  • the policy-makers and the innovators
  • the scientists and the activists
  • the business leaders, the farmers and the chefs

These next two days represent a unique opportunity to shift food from being a cause of global challenges, to becoming a cure to tackle them!

So back to where we are – and where I started.

In Shangri-La, food is not about shocking facts and staggering statistics!
It is about smells, flavors, colourful, vibrant cultures
It is about families, memories and moments spent together

Every day is filled with delicious, healthy, sustainable food
and everyone is invited to the table!

But the Shangri-La is too good of a vision to remain just a myth.
We´ve got what it takes to make it real.

What we don´t have, is time to waste.

Now, let´s get to work!