Presentation at JIRCAS International Symposium 2021

Joachim von Braun gave a keynote presentation at the Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS) International Symposium 2021 on November 17, 2021. The event followed up on the UN Food Systems Summit with a focus on Asia.

The theme of his keynote, “Research priorities in support of global and regional food systems transformations”.

The whole program and the speeches are at


Statements about engagement of science in the UN Food Systems Summit

There had been some critical statements about engagement of science in the UN Food Systems Summit and related campaign activities. An open letter to the UN Secretary General was send from the Chairs or Committee on Food Security (CFS), its High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE), and Human Right to Food UN Special Representatives:

Responding to these positions, the Co-Presidents of the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) – the association of about 140 academies of sciences – placed a letter to the UN Secretary General on November 12th on the IAP website. It highlights the key role of science excellence for policy advice.

The IAP Presidents state “…we agree with the UN FSS Scientific Group that, following the Summit, there should be further exploration of the options for developing a strong, independent scientific body to provide policy advice.” And “… support placing the issue on the agenda for inclusive debate…”.

Interview in Rural 21 on “Transformation requires effective institutions”

Achieving a world without hunger is only one of the challenges which the world food system faces. In this interview, Joachim von Braun comments on the role of institutions, policy-makers, science and other factors in food systems transformation in the context and follow up of the UNFSS.

Read the interview here.

Scientific Group Chair Joachim von Braun addresses UN Food Systems Summit 2021

The Chair of the Scientific Group to the UN Food System Summit Joachim von Braun addressed participants at the Food Systems Summit during The People’s Plenary – Accelerating Action for the Future We Want. He highlighted science-based innovations that can transform food systems in four action areas of the Summit.

The full statement can be found here.

Announcement on the Initiative on the True Value of Food

The “hidden costs” of global food and land use systems are estimated to be US$19.8 trillion per year (Scientific Group of the UN Food Systems Summit, 2021): $7 trillion of environmental costs and $12 trillion of health costs (of which $11 trillion of loss of human life and $1 trillion of economic costs of illness). These costs, including high rates of diet-related chronic disease, the impacts of climate change and unfair wages are not included in prices and profits, and thus ignored by markets. Often, these costs are borne by people who did not have a say: the least advantaged segments of society (frequently smallholder farmers, youth, women, indigenous peoples, people of colour, marginalised communities) and by future generations.

At the same time, the global food system has many hidden benefits that are also not fully reflected in food prices: healthy food is a basic need with many economic and social benefits, and well-functioning food systems allow farmers and workers to earn a decent livelihood.

By creating transparency about the costs and benefits and applying appropriate incentives and disincentives across food systems, we can ensure more sustainable, healthful and fairer food systems in future and create real value for economic growth, society and businesses.

Preparation for the UNFSS has highlighted the urgency for action on these hidden costs and benefits. This action will include developing a new economic basis for decision making – one that accounts for the True Value of Food. This new basis will guide the decisions made by – consumers, businesses, financial institutions, investors and policy-makers towards more positive outcomes for people, the planet and prosperity.

This new basis includes three elements:

  • True Cost Accounting (TCA) to systematically quantify and value impacts and dependencies across the full agri-food value chain to enable decision-making and policies based on true value.
  • True Value business strategies to develop and implement successful business models that create true value for society.
  • True pricing policies to internalize the externalities to make healthy and sustainable food more affordable and align market incentives with true value through market-based pathways, regulatory and income policies.

Integrating these elements into national food systems plans and creating a supportive policy environment for the implementation of strategies and actions to protect our people, planet and prosperity will require coordinated action by all food systems stakeholders.

The Initiative on the True Value of Food represents a community of experienced experts who stand ready to support country efforts to consider, trial, implement and evaluate true cost, value and price of food actions and policy change. With the support of a number of UNFSS Leadership Team and Champions (Peter Bakker, Lawrence Haddad, Berry Martin, Ruth Richardson, Maximo Torrero and Joachim von Braun), the Initiative invites food systems expressions of interest from:

  • Countries for information, knowledge, tools, examples, capacity building and dialogue on the topic
  • Actors who would like to join the three focus areas below
  • Stakeholders who would like to engage in the stakeholder groups listed below.

Focus areas:

  • True costing accounting – Lauren Baker & Salman Hussain
  • True value business solutions – Matthew Watkins & Viktoria de Bourbon de Parme
  • True pricing policy approaches – Adrian de Groot Ruiz

Stakeholder groups:

  • Scientific Group & Research: Mario Herrero (environment) & Sheryl Hendriks (health/nutrition)
  • Civil Society/Farmers – Andreas Kratz
  • Private sector – Suzanne van Tilburg
  • Development partners – Roy Steiner

Please reach out to these facilitators to advance this urgent and essential element of the pathway to achieving the SDGs through a more fair, sustainable and healthful food system. You can submit your expression of interest to connect via the Google Form at

New article published in “Food Policy”

The Journal Food Policy published an article on “The global cost of reaching a world without hunger: Investment costs and policy action opportunities” by Bezawit Beyene Chichaibelu, Maksud Bekchanov, Joachim von Braun and Maximo Torero.

This study developed a marginal abatement cost curve to identify a mix of least-cost investment options with the highest potential for hunger reduction, hunger here defined by the undernourishment concept of the Food and Agriculture Organization. Twenty-two different interventions are considered for reducing undernourishment relying on information drawn from best available evidence-based literature, including model- and large-scale intervention studies. Ending hunger by 2030 would require annual investments of about US$ 39 to 50 billion until 2030 to lift about 840 to 909 million people out of hunger, which is the 2020 estimate of hunger projection in 2030, also considering the effects of COVID-19. Investing in agricultural R&D, agricultural extension services, ICT – Agricultural information systems, small-scale irrigation expansion in Africa and female literacy improvement are low cost options that have a relatively large hunger-reduction potential. To achieve the goal of ending hunger by 2030, not only is it urgent not to lose any more time, but also to optimally phase investments. Investments that have more long-term impacts should be frontloaded in the decade in order to reap their benefits soon before 2030. A balanced approach is needed to reach the hungry soon – including those adversely affected by COVID-19 with social protection and nutrition programs.

Read article here:

Comment in “Nature Food” on ‘Food system concepts and definitions for science and political action’

The Journal Nature Food today published a comment by Scientific Group members Joachim von Braun, Kaosar Afsana, Louise Fresco, Mohamed Hassan and Maximo Torero on ‘Food system concepts and definitions for science and political action’.

It stresses, that for fruitful deliberations and concerted action at the science–politics interface, the concepts of food systems and drivers of change need to be clearly understood.

Read the comment at:

Blog post “Science and knowledge for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021”

by Joachim von Braun, Kaosar Afsana, Louise O. Fresco, Mohamed Hassan
Chair and Vice Chairs of the Scientific Group of the UNFSS

[ Download ]

The UN Food Systems Summit as a whole must become a game changer. The equivalent of the 1.5-degree global warming goal is our goal of zero hunger by 2030, including healthy diets within a sustainable food system. Science, technology and innovation can and must play a pivotal role in the necessary transformation of food systems. To get there, accelerated science investments and the resulting complex set of innovations need to be one of the priority actions of the Summit. The undernourished, youth, women, Indigenous Peoples, and all those marginalized have the right of agency on all matters of their food systems.

As part of this process, the Scientific Group of the UN Food System Summit 2021 (ScGroup) – an independent group of leading researchers and scientists from around the world – was mandated by the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations to ensure “that the Summit brings to bear the foremost scientific evidence from around the world and helps expand the base of shared knowledge about experiences, approaches, and tools for driving sustainable food systems that will inform the future”. It was a bold decision by the UN leadership to unleash a multi-stakeholder process as well as invite an independent Scientific Group to mobilize science communities around the world to advise the Summit agenda with science-based evidence. The science communities welcome that move by the UN, and have become energized to address the complex food systems problems with renewed commitment to identify solutions.

The ScGroup brings to the Summit diverse viewpoints through its own research and that of its networks of partners from all regions of the world who have contributed more than 50 research briefs. These and other scientific contributions were extensively discussed at the Science Days for the UN Food Systems Summit on 5-9 July, an international conference organized by the ScGroup and hosted and facilitated by FAO with more than 40 side events. The event brought together more than 2,000 participants from research, policy, civil society and industry to examine how to unlock the full potential of science, technology, and innovation to transform food systems.

Key outputs from this inclusive process have been distilled in a comprehensive Science Reader that includes research reports by the ScGroup along with briefs prepared by its global partners. The Reader brings research-based, state-of-the-art, solution-oriented knowledge and evidence to inform the transformation of contemporary food systems to achieve more sustainable, equitable and resilient food systems. Most of the papers have been peer-reviewed and were further scrutinized by governments, civil societies, and the general public. Some of the papers are still in draft form, open for further discussion.

The preparation of this Reader was made possible through the valuable contributions of the Scientific Group members and its partners with many research organizations and experts who have volunteered to share their knowledge and expertise. Their tremendous support is gratefully acknowledged.

Drawing on this extensive knowledge base, the ScGroup has identified seven science-driven innovations that must be pursued in an integrated manner for a successful transformation of the food systems:

  1. Innovations to end hunger and increase availability and affordability of healthy diets and nutritious foods
  2. Innovations to de-risk food systems and strengthen resilience, in particular for negative emission farming and drawing on both, advanced science as well as traditional food system knowledge
  3. Innovations to overcome inefficient and unfair land, credit, labour, and natural resource use arrangements, and to facilitate inclusion of and empowerment and rights of women and youth and Indigenous Peoples
  4. Bioscience and related digital innovations for peoples’ health, systems’ productivity, and ecological wellbeing
  5. Innovations to keep – and where needed, regenerate – productive soils, land and water, and to protect the agricultural genetic base and biodiversity
  6. Innovations for sustainable fisheries, aquatic foods, and protection of coastal areas and oceans
  7. Engineering and digital innovations for efficiency and inclusiveness of food systems and empowerment of the youth and rural communities.

We call on national and global policymakers to work hand in hand with the public- and private-sector scientists, academia, civil societies, and with grassroots organizations of marginalized groups including women, and youth. Propositions for meaningful implementation include continuation of dialogues at national and global levels, science and evidence-based planning supported by

  • strengthening research cooperation between science communities and Indigenous Peoples knowledge communities,
  • calling on governments to spend at least 1% of food systems GDP on food systems science, and
  • establishing pathways toward strong science – policy interfaces at national and international levels to enable evidence-based follow up to action agendas established at the summit.

The follow up processes to the UN FSS would also benefit from bi-annual events like the Science Days.

The ScGroup finds it of great importance that not just its own perspectives, but the large diverse body of research of relevance for the UN Food Systems Summit is acknowledged and utilized for shaping the perspectives of the Summit processes. Therefore a documentation of particularly important recent research products and reports has been established on the website of the ScGroup.

Scientific Group releases Science Reader for the UNFSS


The Scientific Group of the UN Food Systems Summit has released a “Science Reader for the UNFSS” which features research by the Scientific Group and its global partners in support of Summit action agendas.

The Reader brings research-based, state-of-the-art, solution-oriented knowledge and evidence to inform the transformation of contemporary food systems to achieve more sustainable, equitable and resilient food systems. The preparation of this Reader was made possible through the valuable contributions of the Scientific Group members and its partners with many research organizations and experts who have volunteered to share their knowledge and expertise.