Thursday, October 25, 2012

Food Security in a Global Perspective

Food Security in a Global Perspective was the headline of the lunch seminar at our department yesterday. Melinda Sundell from the Stockholm Environment Institute came to speak to us about the reasons for food insecurity and what suggestions to solve this issue have been given by the commission on sustainable agriculture and climate change. Also, a professor from the economic department at SLU, Rob Hart, spoke a little bit about the economic perspective on this.

The reasons for food insecurity that Melinda mentioned were:
  • Poverty amidst abundance. Rob also mentioned that at the moment we do have enough food to feed the world but it is more a problem of distribution: some have too much and some don't have any.
  • Increased pressure on natural resources. For example, water might be a scarce resource in the future and we are also running out of phosphorus rock.
  • Climate Change will probably turn land that is used for agriculture today to dry deserts and extreme weather might destroy a lot of the crops.
  • Population pressure, as the world population is still growing.

The suggestions by the commission to solve the food insecurity issues were:

  • To integrate food security and sustainable agriculture with global & national policies (Melinda pointed out that everybody is talking about future energy issues but almost none about agriculture issues).
  • Significantly raise global investment for sustainable agriculture and food systems
  • Sustainably intensify agriculture production while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts of agriculture. The problem here is that organic produce costs much more than conventional produce, this could possibly be solved with some sort of tax that shows the "real" cost of the food in terms of environmental harm.
  • Develop specific programmes and policies to assist population and sectors most vulnerable to climate change and food insecurity. The fact is that a lot of developing countries are most vulnerable to climate change and there might be conflicts in the future because of that.
  • Reshape food access and consumption patterns to ensure nutritional needs are met and foster healthy and sustainable eating patterns worldwide. Melinda pointed out that food patterns might be difficult to change as they are very tied to emotions, eating patterns is something we learn from young age and is difficult to change.
  • Reduce loss and waste of food in the food system: infrastructure, farming practices, processing, distribution and household habits. Here we can actually do a lot! Something like 50% of food is wasted.
  • Create comprehensive, shared, integrated information systems that encompass human and ecological dimensions (still to be developed).
Some of these are easy to write down but perhaps harder to grasp and actually implement in reality. Global and national policies are for example difficult to achieve in a political climate where everybody mostly look after their own interests. However, small farmers are more important than what we might think: 70% of food consumed today is produced traditionally by small farmers which is a fact also pointed out in this video trying to bust the food myths that claims that we need industrial agriulture.

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