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What does sustainable food really mean?

Moderated by Friends of Europe, Cargill event sparks public dialogue

December 01, 2015

Moderated by Friends of Europe, Cargill event sparks public dialogue

How can we ensure that we can feed the world today and the generations to come in a sustainable way?

This question is at the center of the current debate around food security, and is a vitally important topic for 150-year-old Cargill, which has operations the world over. The company recently facilitated a public conversation in Brussels, Belgium, with customers, government and academia to discuss how industry players can work toward a sustainable food system.

In Europe, resource efficiency and sustainable production and consumption are high on the political agenda, and the European Union is keen to play a leading role during the Climate Summit. For that reason, Cargill chose Brussels, the heart of the EU, to host an open dialogue on sustainable food with key European decision-makers and stakeholders.

The audience was a mix of representatives from embassies of 18 different countries, more than 20 European Commission officials, NGOs including Oxfam and Conservation International, trade associations and customers – all of whom actively engaged in the conversation.

Moderated by Friends of Europe, a leading think tank, the event was designed to urge each panelist to think about what a sustainable food system really means.

“There is enough food in the world, but access to food is a problem,” said Robert Horster, trading director for Cargill’s refined oils business in Europe. “Good infrastructure unlocks regions when moving crops from areas of surplus to areas of deficit – and working together with our stakeholders to find a common solution to barriers to a sustainable food system is key.”

Hans van Meijl from Wageningen University echoed the need for cooperation and leadership within the value chain to realize a sustainable food system by 2050, stating that we shouldn’t forget that this issue is closely linked with other big challenges, such as climate change. “We need to start with education to make diets more sustainable,” he said.

Francesco Tramontin, corporate affairs director at Mondelez, emphasized that food must have a positive impact on the value chain. “The driver of doing more is securing our supply chain and to incentivize farmers,” he said.

According to Tassos Haniotis, Director for Economic Analysis at the Directorate-General for Agriculture, European Commission, the main legislator for Europe, the challenge of the regulator is to identify the market and policy failures that are blocking the development of a sustainable food system – and working together with stakeholders is the only way to make progress.

The debate got traction on social media and the event hashtag, #GlobalEU, trended on Twitter in Belgium. The active participation of the panelists and audience both offline and online made it clear that it was a timely moment to publicly engage in the conversation and provide some food for thought.

The video with this story shares highlights from the event and offers impressions from Cargill’s Horster.