Exploratory Workshop on Coordinating Policies to Support Food and Nutrition Security in the Context of Climate Change

This topic was elaborated by FACCE-JPI and JPI HDHL (Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life) following the workshop organised at EXPO2015.

Specific Challenge

Governance practices and regulations have an important role to play in promoting Food and Nutrition Security (FNS), and need to simultaneously address public health, food and climate change targets. Climate change affects several dimensions of FNS: supply and stability, given risks of climate shocks to the food system (e.g. a 10% reduction in global crop yields would be expected every 30 years); nutritional quality, as micronutrient and protein contents decline; and food safety, given risks of increased food-borne diseases.

Such policies must be underpinned by an evidence base derived from rigorous transdisciplinary scientific research. Through regulations related to dietary guidelines (for example, the labelling of foods), subsidising food production in ways that promote healthy eating practices, introducing regulations to promote efficient food production and encouraging specific food consumption practices, the government can play a large role in ensuring food availability and healthy, non-wasteful consumer food choices. However, policies originating in different parts of the food, health and climate change (environment) sectors may have conflicting measures, or due to lack of coordination miss the opportunity to generate synergies between policy areas. Policies which target only a single driver of FNS may have unintended impacts on food systems and interact with climate change. For instance, nutritional security may target reductions in consumption of products with a high carbon footprint, creating synergies, or could, conversely, require intensive production systems with high climate and environmental footprints.

It is important to consider the impacts of policies on human and environmental health and socioeconomic factors, at the same time taking due account of ethical concerns associated with, for example, specific production practices, income distribution in value chains or inequalities in health across the population. Policies must be aligned to ensure that they address health, climate, socioeconomic and environmental challenges and are not operationalised independently within sectors. For example, there may be a trade-off between obtaining optimal nutrition levels for some versus ensuring adequate nutrition for all, and it is important to ensure that the equity of distribution of benefit of policies applies to the most excluded members of society as well as the most affluent. Responding to increasing food demand driven by population growth and dietary change is more than just increasing food supplies and food production, but also entails actions that can shape consumer demands towards more sustainable and healthy diets.

In addition, polices may have unintended consequences which act against the intended policy goals. For example, policies focusing on taxing unhealthy foods (in order to mitigate obesity) are being advocated. Unintended consequences, such as the effects of an increase in the overall cost of food, must be considered, and, where such taxes are already imposed, their effects on FNS monitored. Generally, policies related to FNS should be monitored and evaluated in the same holistic way, and should consider both supply and demand characteristics of the entire food system and implications for trade and for the impacts on less developed countries. This requires the development of research that brings together not only different disciplines (e.g. health, agriculture, aquaculture, psychology, economics and policy sciences), but also ensures that all key stakeholders (e.g. the primary producers, food industry and consumers) are consulted regarding the appropriateness and potential for unintended effects of such policies. Such a holistic approach enables the development of a framework for directing research investment towards science-based evidence which can be translated into effective and actionable FNS policies. Attention should also be paid to supply and demand issues, price volatility, income effects in value chains, interactions between institutions in the private and public sectors, and strategies to develop a portfolio of policy responses which can be utilised in response to different potential food security and system resilience challenges.


An important goal of the holistic approach is to simultaneously consider multiple outcomes, for example, food availability and the nutritional quality of food in the context of climate change. There is a need to integrate existing data sets and models in order to answer some of the urgent questions associated with FNS. Aside from the question of duplication of effort in collecting new data, it is important to collate and integrate data from different disciplines in order to understand the complex interactions which drive food and nutrition (in)security outcomes, in particular across experimental and observational studies, and between the natural and social sciences. It is also important for researchers to discuss, throughout the research cycle, the policy translation of their research with policy makers and stakeholders across multiple sectors, in order to understand the limitations of evidence that can be delivered through the scientific process. Policy translation of scientific outcomes, including the development and validation of policy tools, should be embedded in future research activities in the area of FNS. All of this, however, is contingent on changes in consumer behaviours. Unfortunately, many policy interventions designed to change dietary choices and behaviours at a population level have met with limited success. They have nearly always focused on improved consumer health, reduced consumer food waste, or other goals such as understanding the consumer acceptance of technological innovations.

Future joint research activities might include identification of consistency and tradeoffs between health and sustainability objectives in the composition and quantity of diets, systematic review of existing European policies which target sustainable and efficient food production and waste reduction, healthy dietary choices (and physical activity), and prevention of diet-related chronic disease as well as climate-driven policies for agriculture and land use. In parallel, it would be important to evaluate the intended and unintended effects of such policies simultaneously on human health, the environment and climate change. Examples of such policies include the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms, soil and water policies, and taxation policies on unhealthy foods, public health campaigns focused on increased vegetable consumption or local production practices and interventions promoting reduced consumer waste. It is, however, essential that the impacts of these policies are considered simultaneously, and to this end a holistic analysis is required, after which it can be combined with a better insight into behavioural change to ensure optimal policy implementation.

An emerging question concerns policies related to personalisation of diets. Demographic changes, for example, ageing in affluent European countries, is resulting in changing dietary requirements across the population. At the same time, there is an increased interest in being able to personalise diets in line with phenotypic and genetic differences between individuals. At present, policies related to the personalisation of nutrition are starting to be developed, which raises question about whether such services should be provided by existing health services, governments, or the private sector. It is therefore important to consider at this nascent stage what effects increasingly individualised diets might have on food distribution systems and food localisation policies. More generally, the relation between food distribution systems and localisation of activities with availability, access and composition of diets should be considered. These questions will require specific collaboration between the two JPIs to contribute to the development of policy tools (e.g. dietary guidelines) which simultaneously address public and environmental health. Information being developed in the current JPI HDHL joint actions DEDIPAC (Determinants of Diet and Physical Activity), BioNH (Biomarkers in Nutrition and Health) and ENPADASI (the European Nutritional Phenotype Assessment and Data Sharing Initiative) as well as the FACCE-JPI Knowledge Hub MACSUR on modelling the impacts of climate change on European food security and the FACCE ERA-NET Plus on Climate Smart Agriculture will begin to provide knowledge to address these questions.

Expected Impact

The effectiveness of existing policy interventions will be evaluated, and this knowledge will be used to improve future interventions which simultaneously consider the intended and unintended impacts of potential policies on public health, incomes and climate change. It is important to apply holistic approaches which assess multiple policy outcomes and goals originating in the natural and social environments. In addition, future research needs in relation to gaps in existing knowledge required for effective policy development will be defined. The results will deliver improved human and environmental health across Europe, as well as in-crease the competiveness of European industries (the potential trade-offs on competitive-ness of health and climate policies should be carefully considered) by ensuring that policy implementation relating to climate change goals, labelling or pricing is appropriate and evidence-based.

The proposed start date for this action is August 2018.

The proposed date for the workshop is April - May 2019.

Coordination/cooperation will be sought with: JPI HDHL,SUSFOOD2 ERA-NET.