United Nations chief Antonio Guterres urged nations to revamp their food priorities Thursday, saying the world needed food systems that safeguard the environment.

"The war on our planet must end and food systems can help us build that peace," the Secretary-General told a UN summit in New York.

Guterres said food systems "can and must play a leading role" in meeting the UN's sustainable development goals by 2030.

The goals include ending poverty, protecting ecosystems and ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns that limit waste.

Guterres told delegates of the food systems summit, taking place on the sidelines of the high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly, that the world needed "nature-based solutions."

He noted that food systems currently generate one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions.

"It is possible to feed a growing global population while also safeguarding our environment," he said.

"It takes sustainable consumption and production methods and nature-based solutions. It takes the smart, sustainable management of natural resources -- from farms to fisheries," Guterres added.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends a meeting of the Security Council on September 23, 2021, during the 76th UN General Assembly in New York Photo: POOL / John Minchillo

The United States heeded Guterres's call, announcing it would invest more than $10 billion over several years to promote a transformation of food systems.

The world's top diplomat said the international community was "waging a war against nature -- and reaping the bitter harvest."

He cited "ruined crops, dwindling incomes and failing food systems."

Guterres added that the world needs to "ramp up" emergency food and nutrition systems in areas affected by conflict or climate emergencies and invest in early-warning famine prevention systems.

Guterres noted that three billion people cannot afford a healthy diet. He added that two billion are overweight or obese, with 462 million underweight.

He reminded delegates that nearly one-third of all food that is produced is lost or wasted and said changing food systems can drive the post-pandemic global recovery.

Guterres called on governments and businesses to work together to increase access to healthy diets, lamenting that nutritious food is "often too costly or inaccessible."

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