Rome, April 4 (IANS/AKI) United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation chief Jose Graziano da Silva has called for healthier and more sustainable food systems, saying agroecology can contribute to such a transformation, FAO reported on Tuesday.

In his opening remarks at the 2nd International Agroecology Symposium taking place here from Wednesday to Friday, Graziano da Silva said that most food production has been based on high-input and resource-intensive farming systems at a high cost to the environment, and as a result, soil, forests, water, air quality and biodiversity continue to degrade.

The focus on increasing production at any cost has not been sufficient to eradicate hunger "and we are seeing a global epidemic of obesity," he added.

"We need to promote a transformative change in the way that we produce and consume food. We need to put forward sustainable food systems that offer healthy and nutritious food, and also preserve the environment. Agroecology can offer several contributions to this process," Graziano da Silva said.

Combining traditional and scientific knowledge, agroecology applies ecological and social approaches to agricultural systems, focusing on the rich interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment.

Graziano da Silva urged national policy makers to provide greater support for agroecology. "To move forward, we need the engagement of more governments and policy makers around the world," he said.

The three-day Symposium brings together 700 policy-makers, agroecology practitioners, academics, and representatives from government, civil society, the private sector and UN agencies. The symposium will focus on identifying needs, challenges and opportunities to promote agroecology policies, practices and investments.

On the final day, the Scaling-Up Initiative will be launched. It aims to encourage more inclusive and holistic agroecology transition processes through tools, knowledge and policy processes for transformation of food and agricultural systems, FAO said.

The first Agroecology Symposium was held at FAO in 2014 and since then regional meetings have been held in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, Central Asia and Asia and the Pacific. In the last four years, more than 1,400 participants from 170 countries have been involved in this global effort to discuss and highlight the importance and potential of agroecology.