United States Should Leverage the Food System to Fight Malnutrition, Enhance Health for More Than Two Billion People

April 16, 2015
Washington, D.C.
The United States should use the power of the agriculture and food sector to reduce the reality and risks of malnutrition globally, says a new report by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs released today in Washington, D.C. and endorsed by a bipartisan group of 30 senior policy, business, scientific and civil society leaders.
Malnutrition – from undernourishment to obesity – is a global challenge affecting every country on earth and placing more than one quarter of the world’s population at serious health risk.  Given that nutrition is driven largely by the food people eat, making nutrition a priority in developing our global food system could give billions more people access to the healthy foods they need to thrive, drive economic growth in poor countries and increase the incomes of 2.5 billion small-scale farmers, many of whom themselves are malnourished.
“The healthcare and lost labor costs associated with malnutrition are burdening governments and economies, and the social costs it inflicts are unacceptable,” said Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder, president of The Chicago Council.  “Food plays such an important role in health, and it is critical that all those involved – agriculture, food, nutrition and health leaders – work together to solve the problem.” 
Specifically, The Chicago Council report recommends that:
  • The U.S. Congress commit to a long-term global food and nutrition strategy focused on agricultural development and convene a bipartisan commission on how to tackle nutrition challenges globally.
  • The U.S. government, in partnership with universities and research institutes, increase funding for nutrition research to expand access to nutrient-rich foods and address malnutrition.
  • The United States draw on the strength of its research facilities and universities to train the next generation of agriculture, food, and nutrition leaders both here and in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
  • Government and industry work together to support more efficient and wider delivery of healthy foods, especially through technologies that can reduce food waste and enhance food safety.
“It seems obvious that what we eat has a huge impact on our health and well-being, yet for too long the agendas of the agriculture, nutrition and health sectors have been disconnected,” said former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, co-chair of The Chicago Council advisory group that drafted the report.  “With the ever-increasing global prevalence of chronic disease driven in part by malnutrition and shortages of nutritious food in many countries, it is imperative that we make nutritious foods more widely available and affordable.”  
Malnutrition rates are on the rise, increasingly saddling economies with lower productivity and higher healthcare costs.  Adults who were undernourished as children earn at least 20 percent less than those that were not, and a staggering 4-9 percent of most countries’ gross domestic product must cover the cost of treating those who are overweight or obese.  By 2030 the global decline in productivity resulting from chronic disease could cost $35 trillion.  Sadly, more than half of those who are chronically hungry are small-scale farmers.
“As tastes and consumption patterns change around the world, now is the time to seize the momentum created by people’s increasing interest in the nexus between food, nutrition, and health,” said former U.S. Representative Douglas Bereuter, the advisory group’s other co-chair and president emeritus of the Asia Foundation. “The critical steps recommended in the report can make a powerful contribution to fighting malnutrition and to advancing opportunities and growing incomes for small-scale farmers.”
The bipartisan advisory group that produced the report, Healthy Food for a Healthy World, was led by Catherine Bertini, distinguished fellow at The Chicago Council and former executive director of the UN World Food Program.  The report is being released today at the Council’s annual Global Food Security Symposium, which will draw more than 350 policymakers, corporate executives, scientists and senior leaders from international and nongovernmental organizations to discuss the role of the agriculture and food sector in alleviating malnutrition. 
Speakers at the event include:
  • Shawn Baker, Director, Nutrition, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., President, Purdue University; former Governor, Indiana
  • The Honorable Jeff Fortenberry, Member, U.S. House of Representatives (R-NE)
  • Julie Gichuru, TV Host and Entrepreneur, ARIMUS Media Limited
  • Mark Hyman, MD, Chairman, the Institute for Functional Medicine; Director, Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine
  • Robert H. Miller, Divisional Vice President, Research and Development, Scientific and Medical Affairs, Abbott Nutrition
  • Gregory R. Page, Executive Chairman, Cargill
  • Stefan Schmitz, Deputy Director-General and Commissioner, One World – No Hunger Initiative, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany
  • The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture
The event will be streamed live starting at 8:30 a.m. EDT. 
Symposium sponsors include Abbott and Cargill at the lead level, DuPont at the supporting level and Land O’Lakes, Inc. and RTI International.  Generous support for the Healthy Food for a Healthy World study was provided by Abbott at the lead level, National Dairy Council at the supporting level and the Stuart Family Foundation.  The report and symposium are also supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
This study builds on The Chicago Council’s global agriculture and food work that has informed policies on climate change, science and innovation, international development and non-communicable diseases.
Its signatories are:
  • Catherine Bertini, Distinguished Fellow, Global Agriculture & Food, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs, Maxwell School, Syracuse University
  • Douglas Bereuter, President Emeritus, The Asia Foundation; Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Ekin Birol, Head, Impact Research Unit, HarvestPlus, and Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute
  • Marshall Bouton, President Emeritus, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs
  • Howard W. Buffett, President, Buffett Farms Nebraska LLC
  • John Carlin, Visiting Professor and Executive-in-Residence, Kansas State University; Former Governor, Kansas
  • Jason Clay, Senior Vice President, Markets and Food, World Wildlife Fund
  • Gordon Conway, Professor of International Development, Imperial College London
  • Gebisa Ejeta, Distinguished Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics and International Agriculture and Director, Center for Global Food Security, Purdue University
  • Cutberto (Bert) Garza, University Professor, Boston College; Visiting Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Visiting Professor, George Washington University’s School of Public Health
  • Dan Glickman, Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture; Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives; Vice President, The Aspen Institute; Senior Fellow, The Bipartisan Policy Center
  • Carl Hausmann, Former CEO, Bunge North America
  • Andrew Jones, Assistant Professor, School of Public Health, University of Michigan
  • A.G. Kawamura, Cochair, Solutions from the Land Dialogue
  • Mark E. Keenum, President, Mississippi State University
  • Shiriki K. Kumanyika, Professor Emerita of Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania
  • Carolyn Miles, President and CEO, Save the Children
  • Robert H. Miller, Divisional Vice President, R&D, Scientific & Medical Affairs, Abbott Nutrition
  • Namanga Ngongi, Chairperson, African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership and Former President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa
  • Danielle Nierenberg, President, Food Tank: The Food Think Tank
  • Thomas R. Pickering, Vice Chairman, Hills and Company
  • Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Graduate School Professor, Cornell University; Adjunct Professor, University of Copenhagen; Chair, High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition
  • Steven Radelet, Donald F. McHenry Chair in Global Human Development and Director of the Global Human Development Program, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
  • Cynthia E. Rosenzweig, Senior Research Scientist, Columbia University
  • Navyn Salem, Founder, Edesia/Global Nutrition Solutions
  • Paul E. Schickler, President, DuPont Pioneer
  • Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO and Head of Mission, Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network
  • Robert L. Thompson, Visiting Scholar, John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced
  • International Studies; Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois
  • Ann M. Veneman, Former Executive Director, UN Children’s Fund; Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Derek Yach, Executive Director, The Vitality Group