Nutrition, Biodiversity and Sustainable diets: Methods and Indicators for Sustainable Diets


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Sustainable diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Learn more about Bioversity International's work in understanding and promoting sustainable diets:

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  • Food isproduced, processed, distributed, and consumedeveryday. Theseactivities have direct impacts on humanhealth and on the environment (Duchin, 2005) ;Gussow and Clancy (1986) have first suggested the term « SustainableDiet » to describe a dietcomposed of foodsthat are healthier for the environment as well as for consumers (Burlingame and Dernini, 2011) ;Diets are deeplyentwinedwithmany social and cultural issues, and are operatedthroughcomplexfoodsystems ;Needs for consensual and evidence-baseddefinitions, metrics and tools.
  • Knowledge (Information), Priority (progress toward goals) and Decision:To serve as an aid to decision making, indicators must be in harmony with knowledge (need for evidence-based information) and priorities.What is measured is what counts… even it should not! (L Haddad)Data, Information and Metrics:- Data: Data is a measurement or observation of a variable, and consists of numbers, characters, etc.- Information: When data becomes organized, it is called information“It is the result of processing, gathering, manipulating, and organizing data in such a way that adds knowledge to the receiver”- Metrics: A system of parameters or ways of quantitative and periodic assessment of a process that is to be measured
  • Why nutrition-driven?- Food quality: Triple burden-under/over/malnutrition;- Dietary patterns: Diets (foodconsumption patterns) not justfood;- Consumer-driven agriculture and food system.[Explainwhywe claim weshould talk about « sustainablediets » (not just about « sustainable agriculture » or « sustainablefood system »)]+ Nutrition-drivenoffers the viewpointweneed to select and interpretindicators (social science indicators in particular)… howeverweagreeweneed a system-orientedapproach. Contradictory?
  • Use of average = to assimilate environmental impacts as food attributes rather than system outputsEnvironmental impacts restricted to a few issues (GHGE mainly, no mention of biodiversity)“Use of average impact by food item without considering (the various) production processes”: In addition to being likelymajor biases on the results (particularly in the case of Darmon et al, I think… ok for Livewell), no understanding of causal factors (diagnostic) and development of prospective scenario (predictions). Links to the need for a system-oriented approach…Why problem with Darmon? because they imputed average values to individual diets and, then, did gender-specific comparisons… but still a very interesting work because real try to compare/use consumption patterns…
  • System of indicators or system approach? Not contradictory. Butsystem of indicatorsdoes not meana system approach.
  • The concept of sustainabilityhas had as manydefinitions as people who have tried to defineit.It was first interpreted as an approach to agriculture or foodsystems (certainlyuseful for motivating change). Toward a system property.There is a tradition in both the social and biophysical sciences of using the concept of a system to help in addressing complex problems with multi-causality resultingfrom interactions among interdependent components.Food systems have becomeincreasinglycomplex and global. Theyinclude inputs, mechanisms, structures and actorscontributing to the food production, processing, distribution, consumption, and metabolismLeaving nutrition and joining efforts – from a nutrition perspective to a multidisciplinary system approach
  • Please, mention that FAO is going to be involved/contacted directly in the DELPHI. Or mention that FAO are implicit partner in all these initiative.Please, precise that the DELPHI protocol should be implemented in April/May. First steps are anonymous.
  • + simulation models allow prospective and diagnosticSee attachment
  • Nutrition, Biodiversity and Sustainable diets: Methods and Indicators for Sustainable Diets

    1. Nutrition, Biodiversity and Sustainable Diets:Methods and Indicators for Sustainable DietsBruce Cogill, PhD – 15 April 2013 – CGRFA, FAO, Rome
    2. Investing in afuture withsustainable diets:The approach ofBioversityInternational
    3. DimensionsSustainable diets are those diets with lowenvironmental impacts which contribute to food andnutrition security and to healthy life for present andfuture generations.Sustainable diets protect and respect biodiversityand ecosystems while being culturallyacceptable, accessible, affordable, nutritionallyadequate, safe, and healthy.Source: FAO and Bioversity International. Sustainable diets and biodiversity. FAO 2012. Also the INTERNATIONAL SCIENTIFIC SYMPOSIUM:BIODIVERSITY AND SUSTAINABLE DIETS UNITED AGAINST HUNGER, 3-5 NOVEMBER 2010, FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATIONOF THE UN, ROME 3
    4. Why metrics? Metrics target three principal objectives: • Inform civil society, industry, public officials and all stakeholders • Measure progress toward defined goals • Aid decision making processes. What is counted is what counts... What are Metrics? • An organized system of information combined to provide a perspective.Source: Fanzo et al. (2012) 4
    5. A nutrition-driven perspective (1)…is what we need…• Increasing recognition that Food Security is also about food quality, not just supply or access• Increasing focus on dietary patterns, rather than single food or nutrient• Increasing demand from consumers about the health, environmental, economic and social impacts of their Source: Wellen and Hotamisligil (2005) food choices. Research and policy agenda on agriculture and food systemsustainability has to introduce nutrition at the core of its dimensions. 5
    6. A nutrition-driven perspective (2)Promising current initiatives: A revised Mediterranean diet as a main framework for sustainable diets in the Mediterranean countries (Bioversity, CIISCAM, CIHEAM, FDM, FAO and others); Assessing environment/nutrition trade-offs: Comparison of nutritional adequacy and GHG emission performances for selected diets (INRA, INSERM and others); Defining optimal diets: “Livewell” plate, a diet designed to meet both dietary requirements for health and GHG emission targets (U Aberdeen and others). Main limitations: Environmental impacts restricted to a few issues (GHGE) + Use of average impact by food item without considering production processes. 6
    7. Complex systems ofenvironment, agriculture, nutrition and health
    8. A system of indicators (1) Types of sustainability indicators systems: • Dimension-based (CIHEAM & FAO/SFSP, 2012) • Issue-based (FAO/SAFA, 2012) • Goal-based (Feenstra et al., 2010) • Causal framework (OECD/PSR, 1993)... In search of the multi-dimensional dynamic architecture...Source: adapted from Bell and Morse (2008)To gather consensus among the scientific and international community, participatorymethods can suitably help in deriving a system of indicators… 8
    9. A system of indicators (2) Example (CIHEAM & FAO, 2012): The system of MD sustainability indicators : • Dimension-based framework, coupled with issues/priority challenges • Interpretation of sustainability as an ability to satisfy a set of goals. However… • A sole outcome approach – no causal factor to guide research and policy • Biodiversity indicator(s) to be determined • How to quantify, normalize, weight and aggregate the highlighted themes or issues?Source: CIHEAM/FAO (2012) 9
    10. A system-orientated approachDiet outcomes: Food attributes or system outputs ?• The concept of sustainability evolved from an approach to agriculture to a system property (Hansen, 1996)• Diets – and related outcomes – are the results of complex interactions among interdependent components within food systems• Food systems can best be conceptualized as Coupled Human-Environment Systems.A system approach enables the necessary consideration of the many intricately related factors involved in getting food from farm to fork.Reconciling the indispensable nutrition perspective with a system approach requires multidisciplinary assessment methods 10
    11. What to do?
    12. Short term initiative Advancing through sustainable dietsA quantitative and causal factor approach:Selecting a reliable and validated set of indicators to describe, monitor and evaluatethe environmental impacts, economic viability, social welfare and health outcomes ofa given diet.Methods:• Review of about 200 indicators• Combined Issue/Vulnerability-based evaluation framework• DELPHI expert consultation protocol• Joining efforts, gathering consensus: Panel of about 100 participants• Application to Mediterranean countries (with a focus on France/Spain)• Co-partner: CIHEAM. 12
    13. Medium term initiativeA fully systemic approach:Linking agrobiodiversity and diet diversity at farm level: A farm-household bio-economic model to assess the contribution of agrobiodiversity to dietary quality anddiversity.Methods:• Bio-economic model: Integrated system combining biophysical and socio- economic models• Farm-household system simulation: Expanding existing model to include agrobiodiversity and diet diversity at both ends• Focus on small-holder farmers• Multidisciplinarity: Agronomists, ecologists, economists, nutritionists…• Application to Sub Saharan Africa• Potential partners: JRC Sevilla, Wageningen University, CIHEAM, INRA Montpellier. 13
    14. ConclusionSustainable diets stresses that:• Nutrition is a core dimension of sustainability of agriculture and food systems• For guiding change, characterization should be system-oriented, predictive and allow diagnosis• System analysis and simulation models are tools that incorporate all these elements• …joint efforts are key. 14
    15. Supported by the Nina and Daniel CarassoFoundation and the CG Research ProgrammeAgriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH)For more info: