A friend at the UN

Olivier De Schutter is the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, and one of my new best friends, even if we've never interacted. Via the BC (British Columbia) Food Security Gateway and the COMFOOD e-mail loop, I've just read De Schutter's five ways to tackle disastrous diets, and it hits bullseye after bullseye.

   [6 March 2012] GENEVA – “Our food systems are making people sick,” warned Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, on Tuesday. “One in seven people globally are undernourished, and many more suffer from the 'hidden hunger' of micronutrient deficiency, while 1.3 billion are overweight or obese.”

   “Faced with this public health crisis, we continue to prescribe medical remedies: nutrition pills and early-life nutrition strategies for those lacking in calories; slimming pills, lifestyle advice and calorie counting for the overweight. But we must tackle the systemic problems that generate poor nutrition in all its forms,” the independent expert said as he presented his report* on nutrition to the UN Human Rights Council.

  “The right to food means not only access to an adequate quantity of food, but also the ability to have a balanced and nutritious diet,” Mr. De Schutter underlined. “Governments must not abstain from their responsibility to secure this right.”

The ideas aren't revolutionary, but they're underrepresented comparable to their value, and rarely voiced by someone of such high visibility.

I'm not completely sold on all five ways because one of them is taxing unhealthy products, which is a gray strategem at best. But this only serves to remind me that few things in life are perfect. And then this quote comes close:

 “We have deferred to food companies the responsibility for ensuring that a good nutritional balance emerges. Voluntary guidelines and piecemeal nutrition initiatives have failed to create a system with the right signals, and the odds remain stacked against the achievement of a healthy, balanced diet,” he said.

Exactly right. We have an urgent public health interest in good nutrition, and yet we defer to large private interests with contrary interests to bring it about. By what logic is that a good idea?

Please click over to read the whole piece, or to read his complete report.

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