cardenas7_Brent StirtonGetty Images_farm workers Brent Stirton/Getty Images

The Pandemic Must Transform Global Agriculture

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the risks of unhealthy diets and the extreme fragility of the global food system. But the economic reconstruction that will follow the pandemic represents a perfect opportunity to provide better nutrition and health for all.

NEW YORK/ROME – The COVID-19 pandemic should spur us to redefine how we feed humanity. The world now has a unique opportunity to adopt long-term measures to promote healthier diets, encourage farmers to produce a wider range of food, and strengthen collaboration among the public-health, food, and agriculture sectors. And agricultural research can play a vital role in transforming food systems and making them more sustainable and resilient.

The need for change is clear. For starters, unhealthy diets are one of the leading risk factors related to COVID-19 fatalities. The SARS-CoV-2 virus disproportionately affects people who are overweight, diabetic, or suffer from cardiovascular disease – all of which are linked to poor diets.

This crisis has also exposed the extreme fragility of the global food system. Social-distancing and lockdown measures to curb the virus’s spread have significantly reduced people’s incomes and thus global food demand. The resulting decline in food prices between January and May 2020 has profoundly affected the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers around the world.

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