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When it comes to public health issues, the global food system is a mess. Food safety standards vary greatly from country to country, as does the enforcement of those standards. How do we clean up this mess? A new issue brief has some answers.

Last year, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) issued a series of reports on various aspects of the global food system. IATP's Dr. Steve Suppan was the lead editor of "Food Safety, Plant and Animal Health: Human Health and Sustainability Dimensions."

According to the brief, "Foodborne disease is estimated to affect 30 percent of the population in industrialized countries at some time in a given year. In developing countries, foodborne disease accounts for an estimated 2.1 million deaths annually."

The brief outlines the difficult challenges of foodborne diseases for human health as well as plant and animal health. It highlights the existing international regulatory frameworks and lays out a series of policy options, including: strengthening surveillance systems, establishing regional or national food safety funds, expanding WTO 'aid for trade" commitments to include food safety infrastructure, providing increased international support for food safety measures and standards, and investing in public funds to promote participation of small-scale farmers.

Thus far, the IAASTD report "Agriculture at a Crossroads" hasn't received the attention it deserves. It includes the wisdom of several hundred experts from around the world, the support of international agencies like the United Nations and the World Bank and was endorsed by 57 countries. Finding the political will to transfer the IAASTD's recommendations into action continues to be a struggle. On food Safety, we can't afford to wait.

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