Leading experts from around the world will discuss solutions to challenges faced by global food systems – including waste; marketisation; climate change; and growing populations – when Sydney Law School, the Charles Perkins Centre and The George Institute for Global Health host the Food Governance Conference from 3-5 July at the University of Sydney.
“While globally, more than two billion people are overweight or living with obesity, close to a billion (more than 827 million) are suffering from malnutrition. Food security is therefore critical to population health and to sustainable development,” said Dr Belinda Reeve, lecturer in health law at Sydney Law School and one of the conference organisers.
Hilal Elver, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, will deliver the conference’s Opening Night Public Oration on Wednesday 3 July. She will outline the role of human rights, and particularly, the right to food, in addressing the most complex challenges facing today’s food systems.
Today’s food systems, which are dominated by industrial production and processing, as well as trade liberalisation and aggressive marketing strategies, are fostering unhealthy eating habits and creating a dependence on highly processed, nutrient-poor foods.
“Unequal access to and control over resources, as well as unsustainable production and consumption patterns, which lead to environmental degradation and climate change, also contribute to the malfunctioning of food systems,” she said.
“The imperative to feed the world in a time of climate change resonates strongly with food policymakers and has resulted in a push for large-scale agricultural models to respond to the future demand for food. However, it has been proven that more food production does not necessarily result in fewer people suffering from hunger and malnutrition.”
Other keynote speakers include Dr Juan A. Rivera, General Director of the National Public Health Institute of Mexico, who will present on the importance of Mexico’s leadership in implementing taxes on sugary drinks.
Following on from a successful inaugural conference in 2016, this year’s conference will focus on the role of human rights in addressing food system issues; managing conflicts of interest in food and nutrition research and policy; and sharing law- and policy-making experiences from different countries around the world.
“For example, we’re working with international collaborators to better understand how global trade processes affect the availability of food in communities,” said conference co-convenor Dr Anne Marie Thow, Senior Lecturer in Health Policy at the University of Sydney.
“This conference is about exploring the use of laws around food in improving Australia’s diet and protecting our environment,” added conference co-convener Alexandra Jones from the George Institute and Charles Perkins Centre, who has extensively researched Australia’s Health Star Rating system.
While Australia has been a global leader in areas like tobacco control and road safety, law remains underutilised as a tool to improve Australia’s diets. At a federal level for example, we continue to rely on voluntary approaches and self-regulation.
“Australia’s Health Star Rating system packaged foods have been in place for five years, but they’re still on less than one third of products, mostly those that score well. Ten other countries have mandatory health labels, it’s time for Australia to do the same,” she said.