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Special address by FAO Director-General stresses the importance of consumers in transforming agri-food systems
Friday, 2020/11/20 | 07:34:01

17 November 2020, Rome – Consumers can be the “catalyst” to drive the transformation of agri-food systems, influencing how we produce and consume food in an increasingly digital world, said the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, today in a special address during the celebration of Consumers International’s 60th anniversary.  


In his remarks, Qu congratulated Consumers International, a global federation of consumer groups, and called for even closer collaboration with FAO.  He stressed the need to promote healthy diets and to educate consumers enabling them to make healthier choices, to respect farmers’ work and to reduce food waste as well as related environmental impact.


“Our actions today will shape the agri-food systems now and in the future. It is our collective power that we push governments and businesses to move towards the agri-food systems we need,” Qu said.


“Consumers can guide and advocate for public sector policies and budget allocations that ensure progress towards achieving zero hunger and malnutrition, especially now that we are in a digital world,” he added.


Referring to the 2020 edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI 2020), the Director-General indicated that the transformation of agri-food systems was one of the most important challenges the world faced today. He said it was unacceptable for two billion people globally to be food insecure, three billion people unable to afford a healthy diet, with two billion overweight or obese.


Qu noted that consumers have been promoting healthy diets, thereby making a difference to consumption patterns in Italy and that labelling legislation had empowered consumers in Chile, while in Mozambique the government was working to ensure school meals were healthy and linked to direct purchases from farmers.


Qu also mentioned that the first International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste was observed in September 2020 and invited Consumers International to work with FAO to help people cultivate good habits and make food waste a thing of the past.


The Director-General then alluded to how FAO is changing its business model through innovative approaches like the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, which aims to promote sustainable rural development and agricultural transformation through matchmaking between donors and recipient countries as well as partnerships with the private sector, academia and civil society. He also underscored the importance of big data and innovation for consumers and policy makers.


Referring to Consumers International’s 60th anniversary, the Director-General stated that 60 was an important number in the Chinese culture indicating maturity and achievement. He congratulated Consumers International members for their contributions over the years, while looking ahead to a positive future. “Together we can transform our world through better production, better nutrition and a better environment for a better life,” he said.


Helena Leurent, Director-General of Consumers International, moderated the event and thanked the Director-General for his message as she too stressed the urgent need to ensure people have access to safe and nutritious food and to ensure that diets were increasingly sustainable.


Rosemary Siyachitema, Executive Director of the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe, pointed out that climate change, COVID-19 and promoting healthy diets are critical especially leading up to next year’s Food Systems Summit. 


Sandra Molenaar, Executive Officer of Consumentenbond in the Netherlands, also called for fundamental change on labelling and marketing of food to enable consumers to make healthy choices.


Anja Bolha, the leader of Consumers International Next Generation, said it was time to put ideas into action to create transformation. She concluded by saying that the next generation was both optimistic and confident in the future.


Consumers International is based in London and has more than 200 member organizations in 100 countries. In 2017, FAO and Consumers International agreed to greater collaboration in efforts to end hunger and build more sustainable and equitable food systems.



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