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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Striving for a Nutritionally Sustainable World

By Michael McBurney

Today I searched Wikipedia for the word ‘sustainability’ and found,  “Achieving sustainability will enable the Earth to continue supporting human life”. With respect to food and nutrition, sustainability requires understanding the determinants and costs of producing, processing, and distributing foods globally to sustainably feed a growing population regardless of where they live.

People in the US spend less on food than any other country, only 6.4% of their expenditures in 2012. Americans don’t necessarily spend less on food than others, they just tend to eat more, mostly prepared foods rather than cooking with staples, and leaving more uneaten (waste). Roughly 1/3 of the food produced globally gets lost or wasted. In the US alone, 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at retail and consumer levels (31%) went uneaten in 2010.

The agri-food industry is changing dramatically. Globalization is driving acquisitions and mergers. Farms are getting larger. Because of improvements in agriculture, farmers and ranchers are producing leaner meat and vegetables that stay fresh longer. Healthier foods coupled with food fortification further reduces the risk of micronutrient  deficiency diseases. Consolidation is occurring throughout the food supply chain. This leads to adoption of best practices and economies of scale.

In their review, Johnson and colleagues write that ‘the confluence of population, economic development, and environmental pressures resulting from increased globalization and industrialization reveal an increasingly resource-constrained world in which predictions point to the need to do more with less and in a “better” way.’ They define 5 determinants of sustainable diets: 1) agriculture, 2) health, 3) sociocultural, 4) environmental, and 5) socioeconomic. In their conclusion, they propose an index that would indicate ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ of a particular diet at national, regional or global levels.

At DSM, a Sustainability Advisory Board has been formed. The diverse, international group of thought leaders will help gain deeper insights into sustainability. DSM sees its commitment to fighting malnutrition and eliminating hunger globally as a cornerstone of sustainability. As Feike Sibjesma CEO of Royal DSM wrote in Huffington Post, “You cannot be successful, nor call yourself a success, in a society that fails.

Main Citation

Johnston JL, Fanzo JC, Cogill B. Understanding sustainable diets: a descriptive analysis of the determinants and processes that influence diets and their impact on health, food security, and environmental sustainability. 2014 Adv Nutr doi: 10.3945/an.113.005553