10 Aug 2016 Story Sustainable Development Goals

Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

Global food systems have radically changed over the last 50 years.

Firstly, food production has more than doubled; secondly, diets are more varied and often more energy intense satisfying people’s preferences in terms of taste, quality and packaging, and thirdly numerous  local, national and multi-national food related enterprises have become source of employment for millions of people.

Nonetheless, over 800 million people still go to bed hungry. And approximately two billion people suffer from poor nutrition, while over two billion are overweight or obese. 

The International Resource Panel (IRP) in its report "Food Systems and Natural Resources" highlights that in general, of all economic activities, the food sector has by far the largest impact on natural resource use as well as on the environment.

An estimated 60% of global terrestrial biodiversity loss is related to food production. Food systems account for around 24% of the global greenhouse gas emissions and an estimated 33% of soils are moderately to highly degraded due to erosion, nutrient depletion, acidification, salinization, compaction and chemical pollution. However, there are significant opportunities to develop  Resource Smart Food Systems thus ensuring long-term sustainability while enhancing food security for all.


With a rapidly growing population and GDP, changing consumer preferences and rapid urbanization, a more sustainable management of the natural resource base has become a priority for policymakers in Southeast Asia who wish to ensure food security, improved nutrition, and sustained prosperity in the region.

The International Resource Panel is teaming up with the Stockholm Environment Institute and the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production patterns (10YFP) to offer a Massive Open Online Course exploring the complexities of Southeast Asian food systems.

The course will provide up-to-date scientific information on the inter-linkages between the region’s food systems and its natural resource use trends and environmental impacts. It will cover how to pave the way for more sustainable food systems highlighting a series of biophysical and institutional opportunities for action contributing to the achievement of a number of Sustainable Development Goals.