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Bringing Agriculture to the Table How Agriculture and Food Can Play a Role in Preventing Chronic Disease

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Year Published:
Resource Type:
Case Studies

The agriculture and food system plays a significant role in the illness and early death that arise out of the imbalanced diets, empty calories, and overconsumption that are rampant in high- and middle-income countries and increasingly apparent in the nutrition and epidemiological transitions under way in developing countries. This report describes the links between agriculture and health and demonstrates that agriculture’s long-term success in surpassing the growth of demand with greater production—though not yet in Africa—is a necessary but not sufficient response for modern societies. Long-term human and environmental health should also be goals of agriculture. Food and agriculture must play a role in reversing recent trends that have the potential to stall or reverse the economic and health advances seen in developing countries in the last 40 years.

If farm and food systems are to meet those needs, they must produce affordable, diverse, and healthy food. Decision makers at all levels, both public and private, must participate in steering the food environment in such a direction. The most important decision makers are national and international policymakers, agrifood businesses, donors in agriculture, nutrition, and health, and, of course, the consumer. They must all contribute in the areas of governance, policymaking, increasing knowledge through research and technology development, financing, and personal behavior choices. Creative ideas and leadership are the first ingredients in the mix.