How we produce, distribute, consume food is increasingly becoming the centre of the multiple crises we face today. Whether it is ecological crises of biodiversity decline, climate change or the health crisis of hunger, malnutrition and the spate of diseases like cancer linked to pesticides and toxics in our environment and food chain.
These degradations affect every dimension of the food systems upon which we all depend and involve above all, the abandonment of natural and organic food systems, and accompanying diets, that were the foundation of human health throughout the world in most of known human history.
In May 2018, Navdanya International convened a Working Group of Experts, in continuation of the work of the International Commission on Future of Food and Agriculture, for a 2-day gathering in Florence to brainstorm ideas and contributions, and streamline the vision and concept structure which would be the base for the drafting of the Manifesto “Food for Health: Cultivating Biodiversity, Cultivating Health”.
Download the Manifesto “Food for Health”
The Manifesto postulates that health, starting with the soil, to plants, animals and humans must be the organizing principle and the aim of agriculture, commerce, science, of our lives and of international trade and aims to create convergence between consumers, producers and stakeholders for a common vision of sustainable development in line with the Millenium Development Goals.
English subtitles available in video settings
The Italian Edition of the Manifesto on Food for Health was presented at Sana, in Bologna, Italy, on 9 September 2018.
The Manifesto offers scientific evidence, sustained by more than 200 bibliographical references to scientific studies and papers, on the inseparable link between the way our food is produced and our health. It aims at raising the alarm about the high chemical input in agriculture and food production that industrial agriculture and the Poison Cartel are spreading around the world, the harm it is causing to the health of people and the planet, and showing the way for the needed systems change towards a sustainable, agroecological and healthy future. It advocates the need for a new paradigm, a new way of thinking about health which is ecologically centered, a new paradigm based on systems thinking and not mechanistic reductionism, recognizing that the health of the earth and people’s health are inextricably linked and one continuum. The Food for Health Manifesto aims at helping strengthen the food and health movements as a whole by creating dynamic synergy between the movements for Sustainable Agriculture and Public Health and between consumers, producers and stakeholders.
It shows how the root of the problem is a growing dependence on a dysfunctional paradigm that depends on pesticides and economies of scale to accelerate the quantities of food produced, but at the expense of nutritional quality, causing a wide variety of detrimental impacts on health as well as the ecosystem. These health effects adversely affect every stage of human life and range from still widely prevalent and growing undernutrition and malnutrition to a wide variety of chronic diet related diseases that are now the leading contributors to premature death and disability across the world.
The justification for this emphasis on industrial agriculture, with its fossil fuel based chemical intensive agriculture and chemical intensive systems, centered around maximising production, is the need for sufficient food to feed a growing global population. As a matter of fact, this system produces instead nutrition empty commodities loaded with chemical poisons, radiations and toxics. The great benefits of biodiversity are seriously reduced by depending more and more on monocultures, which have harmful effects on the quality and range of seeds as well the biodiversity of all species. In addition, the industrial agri-food system consumes an immense amount of fossil energy, producing almost a third of all global greenhouse gas emissions, thus contributing to climate change. The majority of the food we consume is, instead, still produced by small and medium farmers, while the vast majority of crops coming from the industrial sector, such as maize and soya, is mainly used as animal feed or to produce biofuels.
These high environmental and health costs are largely excluded from the pricing of food, creating the illusion that food produced is “cheap”. This ‘cheapness’ is artificially manufactured both through government subsidies paid to industrial agriculture, and by externalizing social, environmental and health costs, as well as by false prices through manipulation of the market by agribusiness monopolies.
But there exists an alternative approach to food security that is based on biodiversity, combines quantity and quality, to maximise the benefits to the health and well being of the planet and people.
The ecological paradigm of agriculture, food, nutrition and health recognises the complex living processes within nature and within our bodies, and between nature, other species and humans, as we are part of nature, not separate from her. It is based on a systems approach that is displacing the current experiences and trends toward degradation with policies, practices, and knowledge that ensures renewal, a revived reliance on the health potentialities of the natural food systems, working toward harmony with nature, food sovereignty and seed resilience in the hands of farmers, including a mindfulness of the environmental impacts of food systems.
Alternatives do exist and are based on regenerating the health of the earth through agro-ecology, conservation of biodiversity, promotion of local economies and food systems “from field to table”.
All over the world, small farmers and gardeners are already implementing biodiverse ecological agriculture. While rejuvenating the soil and saving and breeding their seeds, they are providing healthy and nutritious food to their communities. Civil society is creating self-organised ecological districts, where the common good is at the heart of local economic systems, which based on solidarity and cooperation, and continue to offer creative and innovative solutions, enabling communities to regain their food sovereignty often succeeding in making the large agrochemical multinationals irrelevant.
The health of the planet and the health of the people are one. The right to health can be realised only if the right to good nutrition is recognised, respected and realised. It is possible to create good health through good nutrition. For this we have to transform our food systems. This task is pivotal for not only for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030 but for ensuring human and planetary health in a sustainable manner over a longer future.
In March 2019 Navdanya International launched the Campaign Poison Free Food and Farming 2030 – an invitation to women and young generations, citizens and people in institutions, indigenous people everywhere, farmers, producers and consumers of food, local communities north and south, from the local to the global, who are already mobilizing to defend the earth and future generations, to create a unified movement for change.
Navdanya International, 9 September 2018
Navdanya International, 17 May 2018
Città dell’Altra Economia, 17 – 18 November 2018
Doon Valley, 2 – 8 October 2018
Vandana Shiva in Florence for a Manifesto against Agrotoxics: “The Health of the Planet and the People are one”
By Manlio Masucci, Navdanya International, 14 May 2018
16 May 2018, Palazzo Budini Gattai, Piazza Santissima Annunziata, 1
Food for Health Manifesto: a few data
Environmental contaminants and pesticides
More than 80,000 new chemicals and 20 million by-products have been on the market since World War II. Since 1945, global pesticide production has increased about 26 times: from 0.1 to 2.7 million tonnes. http://www.questia.com/magazine/1G1-90161456/popsculture
In Italy, pesticide residues were found in 67% of surface waters and 33.3% of groundwater. 259 substances were detected in Italian surface and deep water, 55 in a single sample. http://www.isprambiente.gov.it/it/pubblicazioni/rapporti/rapporto-nazionale-pesticidi-nelle-acque-dati-2015-2016.-edizione-2018
The WHO estimates 200,000 deaths per year caused by organophosphorus pesticides. http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/34/48
An average citizen has between 300 and 500 more chemicals in his/her body than fifty years ago. https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/54815/not-on-the-label/
Chronic Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs)
70% of deaths worldwide – 40 million deaths per year, about 15 million deaths under the age of 70. 80% of total deaths and 90% among people aged 30-69 in low and middle income countries. http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/noncommunicable-diseases
55% increase in myeloid leukaemia in offspring from pesticide exposure during pregnancy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26061779
Malnutrition and overfeeding
More than 800 million people are still undernourished, despite the fact that almost a third of the food produced is wasted along the production line. http://www.fao.org/state-of-food-security-nutrition
2 billion people suffer, at the same time, from obesity or overweight. http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight
The industrial food system dominates more than 75% of the world’s arable land. http://www.fao.org/family-farming/detail/en/c/284666/
75% of plant genetic diversity has disappeared in just one hundred years. http://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/CA0146EN
Organic food contains higher levels of polyphenols (from 19% to 51%) and antioxidants, lower pesticide residues and lower levels of heavy metals, in particular cadmium. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24968103
Small scale and organic farming
Smallholder farmers provide 70% of the world’s food while having only 25% of the arable land available. https://www.grain.org/article/entries/4929-hungry-for-land-small-farmers-feed-the-world-with-less-than-a-quarter-of-all-farmland
Costs of NCDs: by 2030: over 30 trillion dollars, or 48% of world GDP. http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/documents/s18806en/s18806en.pdf
The cost of synthetic fertilizers in terms of environmental damage is estimated at 375 billion dollars. http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/nr/sustainability_pathways/docs/FWF2_FAO_final_02042014.pdf
Resources / References
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Alleva, R. et al, “Organic honey supplementation reverses pesticide-induced genotoxicity by modulating DNA damage response”, Mol. Nutr. Food Res., 2016.
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Navdanya, “Seeds of hope, seeds of resilience – how biodiversity and agroecology offer solutions to climate change by growing living carbon”, 2017.
Navdanya, “Health per acre”, 2016.
Navdanya International, “Food, toxins and health / Cibo, sostanze chimiche tossiche e salute”, 2018.
Navdanya International, “Il veleno è servito: glifosato e altri veleni dai campi alla tavola”, A Sud, CDCA, 2017.
Navdanya International, “The toxic story of Roundup”, 2017.
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