Norwegian doctor and social activist Gunhild Stordalen defied her own doctors’ orders and suspended treatments for her life-threatening illness to open the latest EAT forum on sustainable food production on Monday. Her audience featured royalty, top politicians, business leaders and celebrities like chef Jamie Oliver, all intent on improving food production, quality and distribution.
Norway’s Crown Princess Mette-Marit and Norwegian Health Minister Bent Høie were among the roughly 500 delegates from 35 countries who gathered in Stockholm for the third annual EAT forum. They also clearly want to support Stordalen’s initiative and Stordalen herself, who’s been battling systemic sclerosis for the past two years.
Once again sporting a bald head, in the midst of another round of chemotherapy, Stordalen addressed her audience to call for progress in making food production more sustainable. “It’s food that is the leading cause of our global health crisis,” Stordalen said. “And it is food that’s at the heart of the environmental catastrophe facing the planet.”
Food production, she said, is responsible for almost a third of all greenhouse gas emissions and the single most important cause of loss of biodiversity. EAT’s goal is to find solutions for more environmentally friendly food production, increase food safety and increase production and distribution of healthy food.
Stordalen claimed the EAT organization she founded is now “more powerful, more professional, more robust” and better able to make an impact in efforts to “fix our food system.” According to Stordalen, half of the world’s population is wrongly nourished because they’re eating either too little, too much or the wrong food. She had great expectations for the conference before arriving in Stockholm.
“Cities, businesses, cooks and researchers are so important,” she told news bureau NTB. “Some of the world’s smartest heads within research, business and politics are ready to act, to redesign the global food system to secure healthy, sustainable food for a growing population.”
Health Minister Høie said he traveled to Stockholm to attend the EAT Forum because EAT “has created an important meeting place that I’m glad to be part of. Much of the work that’s important for public health and sustainability doesn’t happen in the health sector of the public sector, but in business. We have to work together, across the sectors.”
Stordalen admitted from stage that she was in Stockholm “against the advice of my doctors” because she believes food is “the most important issue facing the planet.” When the forum was over, she was heading back to a hospital in Amsterdam to continue her treatments. Her husband, hotel tycoon Petter Stordalen, told Norway’s TV2 that she faced five weeks with new stem cell transplants, chemotherapy and all the associated misery. She plans, however, to be back in the spotlight to continue the EAT campaign in September.