Today is World Food Day – and although 2020 is a year like no other, the principles and messages behind this annual commemoration remain vitally important. Indeed, the vulnerable communities around the world who most need better access to nutritious food are often the most likely to be hit by the economic shocks and supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic.
For those of us who are more fortunate and may sometimes take food for granted, this year has also been an opportunity to rethink our relationship with food, whether that’s been by trying to grow more of our own, cooking from scratch more often, or simply appreciating it more.
The fight against hunger hasn’t ended, and even if you are stuck at home at the moment, there is action that you can take to promote the more responsible and sustainable food chains required to ensure that everyone on the planet gets the access to nutritious food that they need and deserve. If that sounds interesting to you (and you are on the ASC website so we’re guessing you might be passionate about this sort of thing) then read on to find out more about World Food Day, and how aquaculture, ASC, and all of us, can help.
What is World Food Day?
An annual commemoration of the formation of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO), which took place on 16 October 1945 – meaning this event is now in its seventy-fifth year. The FAO works to ensure food security for everyone, and World Food Day is one of the UN’s biggest annual celebrations. It aims to promote awareness of those who suffer from hunger, and encourage action to promote food security and better nutrition.
What are the issues?
Chronic hunger makes it harder to meet many of the UN’s other goals, such as good health and quality education, and it in turn is impacted by a number of other global issues. These include conflict, climate, the economy and inequality. The most vulnerable communities are the most susceptible to sudden shocks and volatility in food supply chains, and this year has been an unwelcome reminder that this volatility can strike at any time. The challenges of malnutrition, in all its forms, is complicated further by the rising cases of obesity around the world. Looking to the future, the world’s population will continue to grow and is estimated to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, so the demand for healthy food will only continue to grow.
How can aquaculture help?
Seafood is a great source of healthy protein to meet these rising demands. The amount of seafood eaten around the world per person has already doubled since 1961 – and the FAO predicts it will continue to rise. Aquaculture already accounts for more than half of the global supply of seafood, and the FAO predicts that the share of aquaculture will continue to grow in the coming years. As well as feeding millions, aquaculture also provides livelihoods around the world – often to small scale farmers in developing economies.
What’s this got to do with the ASC?
As the aquaculture industry continues to grow, so does the imperative to ensure that farms are run well both environmentally and socially. Farms that are not well managed can have a number of impacts, including water pollution, disruption of local ecosystems and poor working conditions.
At ASC we don’t believe it’s enough for aquaculture to keep growing to meet rising demand – if it is not done properly, the potential impacts could have grave consequences and lead to exactly the sort of uncertainty that the FAO warns against. That’s why ASC certified farms must demonstrate that they are managing and minimizing these impacts. It’s not just about managing the impacts of aquaculture. ASC certification also encourages more efficient practices, which can help in the fight to increase the global supply of food. And as the FAO points out, a big part of improving food security is helping smaller-scale producers to improve their practices. The ASC’s Improver Programme works with smaller farms, and helps them to make some of these improvements to their practices even if they are not yet ready for ASC certification. More responsible practices are more dependable and reliable – exactly what we need to provide food security in an increasingly volatile world.
Who else can help?
Achieving zero hunger will require the efforts of everyone – including governments, private businesses and farmers. Even individuals can take steps to reduce the amount of food they waste. Similarly, improving the standards of aquaculture requires a collaborative approach. ASC certification helps producers to improve their practices, but the ASC also works with businesses to create market incentives for producers to make these improvements, and also with governments – for example by benchmarking ASC standards with local requirements.
This collaboration extends to each of us in our daily lives. How? Because your purchasing decisions have power. By choosing to buy seafood from farms that display the ASC logo, you can show your preference for farmers that engage in a transparent and always evolving process to ensure that the food they produce is raised according to best practices and in a manner that will provide much needed resources for the future.