Australia unveils initiative to make food system more resilient

August 25, 2023

Australia’s national science agency has unveiled an ambitious plan to reshape the country’s food system in the face of challenges such as climate change

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said that other challenges including supply chain disruptions, growing populations and consumer trends are also putting pressure on the sector.

In the face of these challenges, CSIRO has released a roadmap called Reshaping Australian Food Systems that identifies what it describes as five key opportunities, including “better access” to healthy food and a reduction in food waste.

Kirsten Rose, the executive director of CSIRO, said in a statement that the roadmap was “a collective approach to tackling some of the biggest challenges” around food.

“Australia’s food systems currently support an estimated 70 million people across the nation and through our export markets, so it’s critical those systems are robust enough to meet future needs,” she said.

More than 120 “stakeholders” had input for the report, which is said to take a large-scale look at food systems and how they interact with society.

Five key priorities have been identified: facilitating Australia’s transition to net-zero emissions; improving circularity and cutting waste; increasing value and productivity; enabling access to diets that are sustainable and healthy; and aligning resilience with socioeconomic and environmental sustainability.

Australia unveils initiative to make food system more resilient

Photo credit: Matheus Frade / Unsplash

“Recent climate extremes, the Covid-19 pandemic, and geopolitical uncertainties show that we need to prepare our food systems for a shifting risk landscape in our interdependent world,” Dr Michael Robertson, CSIRO’s Director of Agriculture and Food, said. “Addressing these challenges and redirecting our food systems towards greater sustainability and resilience will help us protect our food security into the future.”

Investments in, among other things, new technologies, will be needed to make the food system more sustainable and productive, according to CSIRO, alongside initiatives across the food system and between sectors.

An increased focus on digitalisation is important, as this can optimise processes and the use of resources, and allow for mapping, modelling and forecasting. “It enables traceability and auditing, helping to verify point of origin and product attributes and allowing producers to capture greater value in domestic and export markets and protect brand reputation,” CSIRO said.

Already there have been efforts to improve traceability, according to the organisation, but data needs to be captured across supply chains.

CSIRO also said that the solutions that are developed as part of its initiative should be inclusive, taking into account the country’s cultural diversity.

Australia unveils initiative to make food system more resilient

Photo credit: Emmy Smith / Unsplash

Also in a statement, Sarah Pennell, the general manager of Foodbank Australia, said that it was important to promote equity in food systems in the country. “We know that food insecurity is a growing challenge in Australia and there needs to be a ‘whole of systems’ approach to efficiently and effectively addressing the immediate impacts at the same time as providing solutions for the root causes,” she said.

“Foodbank has really welcomed the opportunity to input into this roadmap because it supports and guides a collaborative approach to better delivering food security for the most vulnerable in our community.”

SIAL Paris Newsroom has previously reported on efforts in Australia to cut down on the amount of food waste generated, which is one of the key areas of focus of the new initiative. Some of the largest food companies operating in Australia, such as Woolworths Group, McCain Food and Coles have signed up to the voluntary Australian Food Pact, which aims by the end of the decade to have cut by half the amount of food waste generated.

The country is said to waste about 7.6 million tonnes of food a year at the cost of tens of billions of Australian dollars. Also, in mid-2021, Aldi Australia set the target of sending zero food waste to landfill by 2023 through measures such as allocating more food for animal consumption.

Main photo credit: Maddi Bazzocco / Unsplash

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