Today we celebrate World Food Day in commemoration of the founding of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is a chance to renew our commitment to sustainable and equitable agriculture as a means of ending world hunger.
Around the world, governments and organizations alike have made huge strides towards achieving the principles on which the FAO was founded. Governments on every continent have taken significant steps to change food systems for the better, making them more sustainable, healthy, and accessible to all. Today, we showcase just 21 of the many recent policies and laws enacted by governments worldwide that are helping to change the food system, promote sustainable agriculture, and eradicate hunger.
1. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed in 2010 with a focus on improving the nutrition of children across the United States. Authorizing funding for federal school meal and child nutrition programs, this legislation allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make real reforms to school lunch and breakfast programs and promote healthy eating habits among the nation’s youth. Read more about the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and 15 innovations making school meals healthier and more sustainable on the Nourishing the Planet blog.
2. The Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) was founded in 2011 to help improve the provision of services to farmers in the country. It focuses on adapting its policies to local needs, developing sustainable production systems, and providing farmers and consumers with education, techniques, and services to help supply Rwandans with better foods. The RAB has received praise for its efforts from organizations like the Executive Board of the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa.
3. Beginning in 2008, the Australian government committed $12.8 million for 190 primary schools across Australia to participate in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. Hoping to encourage healthy and nutritious eating habits in young Australians, the program works with primary schools to teach students how to grow, harvest, prepare, and share fresh food.
4. In 2007, the Love Food, Hate Waste campaign was launched in the U.K. by the government-funded Waste and Resources Action Programme. The organization helps reduce food waste by providing tips and encouragement to households across the U.K. and prevented 137,000 tons of food waste by 2009 alone. Find out five simple things you can do prevent food waste on our blog.
5. Argentina made legislative efforts in 2011 to limit foreign land ownership and protect domestic farmers. This regulation, which restricts foreign investors to a 1,000 hectare limit, prevents the establishment of massive, foreign-owned industrial farms and helps to create a domestic community of land owners and farmers with Argentine needs and interests, rather than profits, in mind.
6. The Liberian Ministry of Agriculture and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization are working together to support rural Liberian poultry farmers—most of whom are women. The project includes training and materials for rural farmers about raising and producing poultry, as well as for harvesting cow peas as a sustainable source of poultry feed. These policies have helped rural farmers earn higher incomes and increase their access to protein-rich foods.
7. In recent years, European countries including Italy, Germany, Slovenia, and France have all passed regulations banning pesticides known as neonicotinoids, which have been linked to declining bee populations. Bees pollinate a variety of crops and their decline could have disastrous impacts on food security. Learn more about how neonicotinoids are contributing to declining bee populations on our blog.
8. In 2011, the city of San Francisco passed the Urban Agriculture Ordinance, amending the zoning code to allow food production for personal and public use, provide guidelines and requirements for urban farms, and regulate sales of harvested products and value-added goods. This law has helped San Francisco become a national example of urban agriculture and a promoter of healthy, sustainable diets and communities.
9. Beginning in 2011, the state government of Bihar in India made a major initiative to subsidize farmers practicing organic vegetable farming and to curtail rampant use of agrochemicals on vegetable farms. By providing a subsidy of up to 75 percent to farmers, the Bihar government hopes that organic farmers will be able to get higher prices for their products as well as provide consumers with healthier, local foods.
10. As of August 2012, the USDA awarded $85,000 to the state of Minnesota to expand the number of farmers markets that accept food stamps. With this funding, they hope that low-income consumers, who usually lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables, will have better access to fresh produce and more nutritious diets.
11. The Carbon Farming Initiative, passed by the Australian government in 2011, awards carbon credit to farmers who store carbon or reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their plots. This credit can then be sold to people and businesses wishing to offset their emissions, which rewards farmers who utilize techniques that minimize or absorb greenhouse gas emissions.
12. U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled in 2010 that 256 acres of genetically modified (GM) sugar beets be pulled from the ground and barred them from being grown in Arizona and Oregon. Agreeing with advocates opposed to GM crops, Judge White ruled that the USDA did not properly review the ecological impacts of GM sugar beets before deregulating them in 2005. With the concern that GM beets would contaminate organic varieties, this case was a success in the protection of organic vegetables against GM varieties. Find out more about court rulings concerning GM vegetables on our blog.
13. The Safe Food for Canadians Act was passed in June 2012, consolidating the powers of several previous food safety acts, including the Canada Agricultural Products Act and Meat Inspection Act, into one comprehensive piece of legislation. With the combined authority of these acts, the Safe Food for Canadians Act will implement tougher penalties for putting consumer health and safety at risk, strengthen food traceability, and institute a more consistent inspection regime for all foods in Canada.
14. A law was recently passed by the European Union concerning food information for consumers. The regulation, approved in 2011, amends previous legislation by enforcing nutrition labels on processed foods, origin labeling of fresh meat, highlighting allergens in the list of ingredients, and other protective measures. Through this law, European consumers will be given better information about the food products they consume, allowing them to make safer and healthier choices.
15. In 2011, the Oregon Legislature passed the Farm to School and School Garden Bill, appropriating funds for a competitive grants program in two school districts. These programs will help to stabilize markets for local food growers, increase the availability of healthy products, and teach students about where their food comes from. Check out another great initiative which is feeding and educating our youth on our blog.
16. New York City became the first American city to ban the sale of sugared drinks larger than 16 ounces in 2012. Affecting restaurants, sports arenas, movie theaters, and convenience stores throughout the city, the ban is an attempt to mitigate rising obesitylevels. Because sugary drinks are unhealthy, the ban aims toprevent New Yorkers from consuming an excess of calories and sugar.
17. Bolivian President Evo Morales signed a law in mid-2011 that set up funding for state-run seed and fertilizer production. Looking to end Bolivian dependence on foreign seeds and to protect biodiversity as well as native foodstuffs, the government plans to invest $5 billion by 2021, with generous credits to small farmers in efforts to ensure food security for Bolivians.
18. The government of Ghana is making major strides in regard to food security and sustainable incomes for its citizens. The Savannah Accelerated Development Authority, for example, created under the late John Atta Mills, has fostered sustainable agricultural methods in Ghana’s impoverished north. Under the administration of President John Agyekum Kufuor, Ghana prioritized national agricultural policies and cut hunger from 34 percent in 1990 to 9 percent in 2004, an achievement which earned President Kufuor the World Food Prize in 2011.
19. Starting in 2011, Denmark became the first nation in the world to levy a tax which directly targets saturated fat in foods. At an extra US$2.85 per kilogram of food with more than 2.3 percent saturated fat, the tax is designed to curb the consumption of saturated fat, which is linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity. Read more about Denmark’s fat tax on our blog.
20. From 2007 to 2011, 26 African nations, including Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, and the Republic of Congo, signed the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Compact. The aims of the Programme are to boost African productivity in the agricultural sector and provide African nations with greater food security. As part of these goals, the Programme plans to make the continent a net exporter of agricultural products, distribute wealth equitably to rural populations, and employ environmentally sound production strategies to promote a culture of sustainable management of natural resources across Africa.
21. The USDA passed the Access to Pasture Rule in 2010, which contains clear and enforceable regulations concerning access to pasture for organic livestock. Mandating that livestock must be able to actively graze on a daily basis, the Access to Pasture Rule not only ensures that livestock operations are healthy and more sustainable, but holds organic livestock production to pasture-based rather than factory farming-based production standards.
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