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Geoffrey Cannon

Geoffrey Cannon 130 x 180Anybody who grows up in England, the first country to be industrialised, gets a particular taste of food and view of nutrition. My secondary boarding school was Christ’s Hospital, whose medical officer (before my time) was GE Friend. His do-it-himself epidemiology, reported to the authorities, prompted the compulsory fortification of margarine. My subject was history as taught by Michael Cherniavsky, who encouraged his pupils to think for themselves. My main university subject was philosophy which, as taught by Charles Taylor and Michael Dummett, made me try to think straight. I am still working on this. After university for many years I worked on magazines, beginning with the weekly review New Society as edited by Tim Raison. This trained me to try to be clear, and to think about what readers want and – not always the same thing – need.

In the early 1980s I began to specialise in writing about food and nutrition policy and practice, and also writing and action on fitness and health. (See below). This made me learn about food systems and what and who drive them. One result was The Food Scandal, co-written with Caroline Walker (1984), and then later (1987) The Politics of Food. As from 1992, I have worked for the World Cancer Research Fund and also its affiliate the American Institute for Cancer Research, whose President and CEO is Marilyn Gentry.

Now I am living and working in the South, in a middle-income country with gross contrasts between rich and impoverished communities. Since moving to Brazil in 2000, my idea of food and nutrition is transformed.

Brazil has an extraordinarily strong and maintained tradition in public health. This remains embodied in environmental, social, economic and political contexts, in a very large country where community and family values still survive. In 2000-2002 I worked for the Brazilian federal Ministry of Health with Association Council and founder members Denise Coitinho and Elisabetta Recine. There I wrote the initial drafts of the current official national dietary guidelines. Also, I had special responsibility to advocate the Brazilian position on infant and young child nutrition, and in particular breastfeeding, as a delegate to the 2001 WHO Executive Board meeting. The Brazilian Resolution, supported, developed and improved in consultation with many countries notably in the South, became the basis for the current UN Global Strategy.

The challenge of this century is how to sustain the earth’s physical, living and human resources, all together, and so leave a good inheritance. This is our task, in challenging times. Nutrition is about health. It is also about the future of the biosphere.

Chief Health Policy Advisor, the Americas, American Institute for Cancer Research. International Advisor, World Cancer Research Fund. WCRF Director of Science, 1990s. Chief editor, WCRF/AICR reports on prevention of cancer, 2007, and public policy implications of the prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases, 2009 (see www.dietandcancerreport.org).

Work in food and nutrition policy began in 1980, when an assistant editor of The Sunday Times. Since then have worked with civil society organizations (Sustain, the Caroline Walker Trust, the Guild of Food Writers, the Soil Association); for health organisations (WCRF/AICR); for government (the federal government of Brazil, and as a representative of the UK and then Brazil at WHO assemblies); and for the UN (advisor to WHO, active in civil society section of the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition).Associated work in health and fitness. For ten years, wrote the monthly Fun Runner column for Running magazine. In 1983 was founder of the Serpentine Running Club (www.serpentine.org.uk) which now has 2,250 members. Once upon a time ran 10 marathons slowly and skiied one very slowly.

Earlier, was at Oxford (Balliol). Between 1962 and 1979 worked as an editor (New Society), publications executive (International Publishing Corporation); designer (The Spectator, The Listener); TV producer (Granada TV); and as a BBC head of department (editor of its programme journal Radio Times). Various national awards for newspaper and magazine design, writing and campaigns.

As well as my other work, in the 2000s associate editor, then a deputy editor, Public Health Nutrition 2003-2010; writer of its Out of the Box column 2003-2009. Around 60 papers and other contributions available on PubMed. Co-convenor with Association founder member Claus Leitzmann of the New Nutrition Science project. Drafted the 2009 Istanbul Declaration on the nature, purpose and future of public health, for the World Federation of Public Health Associations (see www.wfpha.org). Recent books include The Fate of Nations (2003), and the new edition of Dieting Makes You Fat (2008). Forthcoming book, The New Nutrition Science (co-chief editor), Wiley-Blackwell.