Organic at the UN Food Systems Summit 2021

The global policy and consultative process called the UN Food System Summit (UNFSS) culminated in virtual events held mid-Spetember and the actual Summit taking place on Thursday, 23 September 2021.

Despite the controversial process of the summit, IFOAM – Organics International decided to engage formally with the UNFSS, with a view to mainstreaming agroecology and organic agriculture across the different elements of the process. 

As a result of this work, together with our likeminded partners, we managed to bring to life a coalition on agroecology and regenerative agriculture and we continue to work with partners to make sure that policies supporting agroecology and organic are seen as progressive and pioneering within Action Area 6.1 Governance.


See how organic featured in the UNFSS!

  • Check out IFOAM Ambassador Frank Eyhorn’s messages conveyed at the UN Food System Summit

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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. 

The setup of the FSS is the following:

  • The Summit is supported by five Action Tracks, aligned to the Summit´s five objectives, that offer to 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.

  • The Action Tracks drew expertise of actors from food systems across the world that resulted in more than 2000 ideas and submissions. These were assessed and consolidated into 15 Action Areas. Such areas are the starting point of coalitions of action which could help national governments and multi-stakeholders adopt transformational pathways and associated policy and behavioural shifts towards more sustainable food systems.

  • Over the past months, hundreds of individuals, governments, organisations and institutions joined the Summit´s Action Tracks, cross-cutting levers of change and Scientific group to support the transformation of food systems in line with the ambition of the summit. As a result of this, a list of emerging coalitions in the context of the summit emerged.

  • The Summit will conclude this inclusive global process, by offering actionable commitments where Member States and other stakeholders register their collective or individual commitments to action which are aligned to the five action area.

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 organisations 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 organisation 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.

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 organised a counter-summit around the Pre-Summit in July in order to have their voices heard. The goal was 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. More information about the counter-summit here

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.

Watch the statement of La Via Campesina North America on UNFSS

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 coalition on agroecology and regenerative agriculture. In fact, the food system pre-summit ended with a strong endorsement of agroecology as a strategy for combating climate change, reversing loss of biodiversity and increasing availability of healthy food for all. Numerous state representatives, including Germany, Switzerland and France named agroecology as a “game changing solutions” to transforming our food systems. Agroecology was also named as one of seven priority themes that global coalition of nations, NGOS and businesses will continue to work after the summit.

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 6.1 Governance Action Area.

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.


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

The session co-organised by the Food Policy Forum For Change provided space for various constituencies to demonstrate how agroecology works in practice and how they overcame obstacles, share their commitments and invite others to act.

Watch the recording

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