Organic at the UN Food Systems Summit 2021

This autumn, the Food Systems Summit will bring together key players from the worlds of science, business, policy, healthcare and academia, as well as farmers, indigenous people, youth organizations, consumer groups, environmental activists, and other key stakeholders. Before, during and after the Summit, these actors will exchange on how to bring about tangible, positive changes to the world’s food systems.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has convened this Summit as part of the UN Decade of Action to be held in 2021. The UN Food System Summit aims to launch bold new actions to transform the way the world produces and consumes food, as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

    The FSS aims to help stakeholders to better understand and manage the complex choices that affect the future of food systems and to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. This will be aligned with a Pre-Summit that will take place this year in Rome, 26-28 July, as well as a possible Post-Summit in 2022. Whether all these events will in the end go virtual or hybrid is still to be seen.

    The setup of the FSS, as it is known by now, is the following:

    • The Summit will be supported by five Action Tracks, aligned to the Summit´s five objectives, that will offer all constituencies a space to share and learn, to foster new actions and partnerships, and to amplify existing initiatives. Among the leaders of the Action Tracks are the Global Alliance for Increased Nutrition (GAIN), the EAT Forum, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), to name but a few. A sixth Action Track on governance might be added soon. 
    • The Action Tracks will also draw on the expertise of actors from food systems across the world. Together, they will explore how key cross-cutting levers of change can be mobilised to meet the Summit’s objectives. In view of this, the Summit Secretariat has also issued a call for game-changing solutions to pick up the pace to delivery of the SDGs. Find our own game-changing solutions on this page under ‘Resources’.
    • The Food System Summit Dialogues (FSSDs) offer an opportunity for anyone to come together to identify food systems that are both sustainable and equitable, aligned with the SDGs. The dialogues represent a core component of the preparations for the Summit and are divided into three categories:
      • Member State Summit Dialogues: organized by national governments (UN-Member states),
      • Independent Summit Dialogues: organized by individuals, organizations independent from the national ones,
      • Global Summit Dialogues (GSDs): Co-convened by the Food Systems Summit Special Envoy. We have been part of the Food Systems Dialogues since 2018 as a member of their Reference Group, before these were turned into GSDs.
    • The Champions Network will serve to mobilize a large and diverse group of stakeholders representing a broad range of constituencies in every region of the world to call for a transformation of the world´s food systems. The Champions Network will inspire and facilitate coordinated action before, during and after the Summit. It is chaired by Ruth Richardson, the Executive Director of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food with which we are advocating together on true cost accounting and other issues to reform our food systems.
    • To help the work of the Special Envoy, an Advisory Committee and a Scientific Group have been set up. The good news is that one of our Ambassadors, Dr. Urs Niggli has a seat in the latter.

    It is important to know that the FSS was first initiated by major economic powers working globally on food systems gathered officially in the World Economic Forum. In this context, the UN Secretary-General appointed Dr. Agnes Kalibata, president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), as his Special Envoy for the FSS.

    The initiative, particularly since the appointment of the AGRA President, has been receiving criticism from various movements and organizations that we consider like-minded as they advocate for a similar paradigm change in food systems as the organic movement does. The appointment itself has been challenged by hundreds of organisations via a letter sent to the UN Secretary, objecting to the event's leadership under an organization promoting industrial commercial agriculture.

    La Via Campesina published their position on FSS titled ’A Summit Under Siege’ last December. They remain outside the process claiming it to be non-inclusive and led by global financial elites. The Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples' Mechanism for relations with the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) have also sent a letter to the CFS Chair with similar messages.

    Other networks take different stances on the process and try to navigate cautiously around such a difficult issue, sometimes following an inside as well as an outside strategy through their different stakeholders.

    We ourselves find the process tedious and overwhelming, particularly for smaller organisations with limited resources, thereby creating inequalities. Also, there was no clarity at the beginning on how the inputs from the different elements of the process (e.g. Action Tracks and Dialogues) come together. The process still gives us the impression that the planning follows a step-by-step approach, which makes it difficult for many of us to prioritise.

    Despite our own doubts, IFOAM – Organics International decided to engage formally with the FSS, with a view to mainstreaming agroecology and organic agriculture across the different elements of the process. 

    As a result of this work, we managed to bring to life a Solution Cluster on agroecology and regenerative agriculture. In another effort to make a shift in the food policy arena towards sustainability and inclusivity, we are working with partners to make sure that policies supporting agroecology and organic will be seen as progressive and pioneering under the Governance Action Area.

    While we proudly represent the organic movement, we nevertheless continue to be critical and reserve the right to step out should we experience serious imbalances or non-inclusivity. We remain in touch with like-minded movements and follow any possible processes they introduce as an alternative to the UN-led formal FSS.

    Our Executive Director is part of the Areas of Collective Action & Innovation (ACAI) - Sustainably Manage in Action Track 3 as an advisor.

    IFOAM – Organics International formally engages with the Summit to make sure the voice of the organic movement is heard.


    For the next months, you are likely to come across various events and dialogues which are held under this umbrella. Check out what’'s going on around you, who the Convenor is in your country here, or convene your own Independent Dialogue according to the guidelines.

    As part of IFOAM - Organics International's network, we encourage you to participate in these events and convey messages regarding the benefits of organic agriculture and agroecology and how they can ensure a shift to sustainable consumption patterns, boosting nature-positive production, advancing equitable livelihoods and building resilience.

    Action Track 3 is based on the principle that systemic change toward nature-positive production requires cross-cutting levers of policy reform, coordinated investment, accessible financing and innovation, traditional knowledge, local governance, sound data and gender action. This integrated approach is key to managing the impacts of climate change, reducing emissions, increasing carbon sequestration, regenerating ecosystems, protecting biodiversity, curbing food waste and reducing energy consumption while supporting healthy and nutritious diets.

    They work on solution propositions in three integrated multi-stakeholder platforms called Areas of Collective Action and Innovation (ACAIs):

    • Protect natural ecosystems against new conversions for food and feed production
    • Manage sustainably existing food production systems to the benefit of both nature and people
    • Restore and rehabilitate degraded ecosystems and soil function for sustainable food production

    Action Track 3 "Wave 2" report

    The "Wave 2" report which presents the input received by Action Track 3 is now available here.


    Upcoming events

    IPES-Food stepped down from roles held within the UN Food Systems Summit process. With this action, IPES-Food warns that the Summit is being used to advance a new mode of decision-making that could exclude many voices in food systems. See the withdrawal statement here.

    For further information, take a look at the IPES-Food Briefing note and the open letter by independent scientists!

    Peasant, indigenous-led organisations and civil society groups are joining forces to organise a counter-summit around the Pre-Summit in July in order to have their voices heard. The goal is not only to challenge the FSS, but also to promote food sovereignty and the radical transformation of corporate food systems, defend the CFS, including its High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) and uphold the human rights mandate of the UN. Check out the programme!


    Find below relevant resources for the organic movement produced in the context of the Food Systems Summit 2021, including public forum recordings and reports.

    We developed two documents as input into Action Track 3 as game-changing solutions to boost nature-positive production:

    We compiled these documents together with friends from the Asian Farmers Organisation and the Biovision Foundation. Feel free to use them as you prepare for upcoming events.


    December 10, 2020: Watch here.

    This event focused on Action Track 3 (AT3) - boosting nature-positive production systems at scale to globally meet the fundamental human right to healthy and nutritious food while operating within planetary boundaries.

    February 26, 2021: Watch here.

    The event presented current thinking and exchanged game-changing ideas with an interactive panel discussion.

    May 28, 2021: Watch here.

    With more than 300 participants across the world, the event focused on sharing updates and progress on the Food Systems Summit, with interventions from the Summit Secretariat, Levers of Change (Finance, Innovation, Gender) and Action Tracks.

    July 12, 2021: Watch here.

    Representatives from each of the five Action Tracks and the Food System Summit Dialogues shared their progress and next steps in the Summit process.

    The Action Track 3 Scientific Group has released a report providing a high-level overview of the scientific evidence in favor of nature-positive food systems, discussing opportunities and challenges associated with sustainable, efficient agricultural production with a view to concrete policy recommendations. Read the report here.

    Recording and materials from the GLF session can be found here

    Check out here what IFOAM Ambassador Frank Eyhorn, CEO of Biovision Foundation, has to say in the context of the documentary Sustainable Food for a Sustainable Future released by the Geneva Environmental Network.

    For further information visit the Food Systems Summit website or follow the Summit on social media: 

    • Twitter: @FoodSystems
    • Instagram: @UNFoodSystems 
    • Facebook: @UNFoodSystems