The call has come as both ends of the spectrum of malnutrition - hunger and obesity - are on the rise.
Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the FAO, told delegates at the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) that new food systems must be implemented to end all malnutrition.
The CFS is a platform that allows all stakeholders, governments, civil societies and the public sector to work together to develop policy recommendations and guidance on food security.
The 44th session of the CFS began on Monday (9th October) and has a focus on sustainable forestry and urbanisation.
Graziano da Silva said that both obesity and hunger are on the rise worldwide, with 815 million people suffering from hunger in 2016 and obesity becoming an epidemic in developed and developing countries.
“This can compromise future human generations,” he said. “This is a huge task that governments alone will not be able to fulfil”.
Population growth, increasing urbanisation and climate change are all contributing factors to both problems.
Graziano da Silva also announced that the FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) will co-organise an International Conference on Food Safety in early 2019.
The aim of the conference will be to work towards achieving the goals of the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) outlined in 2014.
The ICN2 set out guidelines for food sustainability, international trade, nutrition education, food wastage, health care, obesity, stunting and other food security topics.
Initial targets for improvement have been set for 2025.
Multiple contributing factors
Delegates at the CFS agreed that ending world malnutrition is a difficult task that needs strong team work from all involved parties.
“To end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition requires policy coherence and coordination among different actors and sectors – what we do here at CFS,” said Amira Gornass, CFS Chair.
President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Gilbert F. Houngbo, said: “Hunger can reappear and come back stronger than it was before. Only long-term strategies and investments can end hunger and poverty, and prevent both from returning. That is what sustainability is.”
Ending worldwide conflicts and violence is one of the most important tasks for world leaders in the effort to conquer malnutrition, said executive director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley.
Figures have shown that 80% of 155 million stunted children under the age of five currently live in conflict zones.
The other important issue that needs tackling is the topic of the planet’s “looming existential challenges”, according to John Agyekum Kufuor, former President of Ghana.
Kufuor gave a keynote address to delegates at the CFS about the decline of hunger and poverty in Ghana.
He said climate change pledges and sustainable food systems are important in fighting malnutrition.
“What affects one country in the world affects all other parts”.
A report on Nutrition and Food Systems will be released by a panel of experts following the plenary session.