Food security


Food security

Food security refers to the availability of food and one's access to it. A household is considered food secure when its occupants do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. World-wide around 852 million people are chronically hungry due to extreme poverty, while up to 2 billion people lack food security intermittently due to varying degrees of poverty (source: FAO, 2003). As of late 2007, increased farming for use in biofuels, [ [http://www.sundayherald.com/news/heraldnews/display.var.2104849.0.2008_the_year_of_global_food_crisis.php 2008: The year of global food crisis] ] world oil prices at more than $100 a barrel, [ [http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0118/p08s01-comv.html The global grain bubble] ] global population growth, [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2008/mar/07/scienceofclimatechange.food Food crisis will take hold before climate change, warns chief scientist] ] climate change, [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/nov/03/food.climatechange Global food crisis looms as climate change and fuel shortages bite] ] loss of agricultural land to residential and industrial development, [ [http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article3782.html Experts: Global Food Shortages Could ‘Continue for Decades'] ] [ [http://www.moyak.com/researcher/resume/papers/var13mkm.html Has Urbanization Caused a Loss to Agricultural Land?] ] and growing consumer demand in China and India [http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1717572,00.html The World's Growing Food-Price Crisis] ] have pushed up the price of grain. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/7284196.stm The cost of food: Facts and figures] ] [ [http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/2008/Update72_data.htm#table1 Food Price Unrest Around the World, September 2007- April 2008] ] Food riots have recently taken place in many countries across the world. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/dec/04/china.business Riots and hunger feared as demand for grain sends food costs soaring] ] [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3500975.ece Already we have riots, hoarding, panic: the sign of things to come?] ] [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/feb/26/food.unitednations Feed the world? We are fighting a losing battle, UN admits] ]

It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain food security in a world beset by a confluence of "peak" phenomena, namely peak oil, peak water, "peak grain" and "peak fish." More than half of the planet's population, numbering approximately 3.3 billion people, live in urban areas as of November 2007. Any disruption to farm supplies may precipitate a uniquely urban food crisis in a relatively short time. [Mathew Maavak – [http://www.maavak.net/maavak/maavak076.html WE ARE IN A BAD FIX] ] . The ongoing global credit crisis has affected farm credits, despite a boom in commodity prices. [ [http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hSQJyAYJT8yJGDIiyQqAlWmNpJ2QD905OCU01 Amid strong farm economy, some worry about increased debt, Associated Press, April 20, 2008] ] Food security is a complex topic, standing at the intersection of many disciplines.

A new peer-reviewed journal of "Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food" is to be published from 2009. [ [http://www.isppweb.org/about_fs_flyer.asp New ISPP Journal.] "Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food"] In developing countries, often 70% or more of the population lives in rural areas. In that context, agricultural development among smallholder farmers and landless people provides a livelihood for people allowing them the opportunity to stay in their communities. In many areas of the world, land ownership is not available, thus, people who want or need to farm to make a living have little incentive to improve the land. Important issues for farmers under discussion currently are: land ownership, soil quality, water use, subsidies, credit, market stability/access and insurance. Further information http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/fpr/pr18.pdf

In the US, there are approximately 2,000,000 farmers, less than 1% of the population.

A direct relationship exists between food consumption levels and poverty. Families with the financial resources to escape extreme poverty rarely suffer from chronic hunger; while poor families not only suffer the most from chronic hunger, but are also the segment of the population most at risk during food shortages and famines.

Two commonly used definitions of food security come from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

* Food security exists when all people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. (FAO)

* Food security for a household means access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food security includes at a minimum (1) the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, and (2) an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is, without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies). (USDA) [cite web| last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =Food Security in the United States: Measuring Household Food Security | work = | publisher = USDA | date = | url = http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodSecurity/measurement.htm | format = HTML | doi = | accessdate = 2008-02-23]

The stages of food insecurity range from food secure situations to full-scale famine. "Famine and hunger are both rooted in food insecurity. Food insecurity can be categorized as either chronic or transitory. Chronic food insecurity translates into a high degree of vulnerability to famine and hunger; ensuring food security presupposes elimination of that vulnerability. [Chronic] hunger is not famine. It is similar to undernourishment and is related to poverty, existing mainly in poor countries." [Melaku Ayalew – [http://www.bradford.ac.uk/research/ijas/ijasno2/ayalew.html What is Food Security and Famine and Hunger?] ]

Food security in the United States

Community food security

Community food security is a condition in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice

Following are six basic principles of community food security, as defined by the Community Food Security Coalition:

*Low Income Food Needs Like the anti-hunger movement, CFS is focused on meeting the food needs of low income communities, reducing hunger and improving individual health.

*Broad Goals CFS addresses a broad range of problems affecting the food system, community development, and the environment such as increasing poverty and hunger, disappearing farmland and family farms, inner city supermarket redlining, rural community disintegration, rampant suburban sprawl, and air and water pollution from unsustainable food production and distribution patterns.

*Community focus A CFS approach seeks to build up a community's food resources to meet its own needs. These resources may include supermarkets, farmers' markets, gardens, transportation, community-based food processing ventures, and urban farms to name a few.

*Self-reliance/empowerment Community food security projects emphasize the need to build individuals' abilities to provide for their food needs. Community food security seeks to build upon community and individual assets, rather than focus on their deficiencies. CFS projects seek to engage community residents in all phases of project planning, implementation, and evaluation..

*Local agriculture A stable local agricultural base is key to a community responsive food system. Farmers need increased access to markets that pay them a decent wage for their labor, and farmland needs planning protection from suburban development. By building stronger ties between farmers and consumers, consumers gain a greater knowledge and appreciation for their food source.

*Systems-oriented CFS projects typically are "inter-disciplinary," crossing many boundaries and incorporating collaborations with multiple agencies. [ Community Food Security Coalition, What is community food security? http://www.foodsecurity.org/views_cfs_faq.html accessed on Nov 1, 2007 @ 7:10pm PDT. ]

Food insecurity

Food insecurity has been described as "a condition in which people lack basic food intake to provide them with the energy and nutrients for fully productive lives." (Hunger Task Force) In 2005, 35.1 million Americans, which includes 22.7 million adults and 12.4 million children, lived in households that were unable to afford the food they need for the year. [ [http://www.secondharvest.org/learn_about_hunger/fact_sheet/poverty_stats.html America's Second Harvest - Hunger and Poverty Statistics ] ] Households that are more likely to experience food insecurity are female-headed with children, those with incomes below the poverty line, and those that reside either in principal cities or within rural areas ibid] . The top three states ranking in prevalence of food insecure households between 2003-2005 were New Mexico (16.8%), Mississippi (16.5%), and Texas (16.0%) .

The USDA report cited below asks the question, "How often were people hungry in households that were food insecure with hunger?" Around 4 percent of people reported going hungry at least once a year, while on any given day the figure is estimated to be between 0.5 percent and 0.8 percent. [http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err11/err11.pdf]

tunting and chronic nutritional deficiencies

Many countries experience perpetual food shortages and distribution problems. These result in chronic and often widespread hunger amongst significant numbers of people. Human populations respond to chronic hunger and malnutrition by decreasing body size, known in medical terms as stunting or stunted growth. This process starts "in utero" if the mother is malnourished and continues through approximately the third year of life. It leads to higher infant and child mortality, but at rates far lower than during famines. Once stunting has occurred, improved nutritional intake later in life cannot reverse the damage. Stunting itself is viewed as a coping mechanism, designed to bring body size into alignment with the calories available during adulthood in the location where the child is born. Limiting body size as a way of adapting to low levels of energy (calories) adversely affects health in three ways:

* Premature failure of vital organs occurs during adulthood. For example a 50 year old individual might die of heart failure because his/her heart suffered structural defects during early development.

* Stunted individuals suffer a far higher rate of disease and illness than those who have not undergone stunting.

* Severe malnutrition in early childhood often leads to defects in cognitive development.

"The analysis ... points to the misleading nature of the concept of subsistence as Malthus originally used it and as it is still widely used today. Subsistence in not located at the edge of a nutritional cliff, beyond which lies demographic disaster. Rather than one level of subsistence, there are numerous levels at which a population and a food supply can be in equilibrium in the sense that they can be indefinitely sustained. However, some levels will have smaller people and higher normal mortality than others." [Robert Fogel, The Escape from Hunger and Premature Death: 1700-2100; Cambridge University Press, 2004.]

Global water crisis

Water deficits, which are already spurring heavy grain imports in numerous smaller countries, [ [http://www.earth-policy.org/Books/Seg/PB2ch03_ss6.htm Water Scarcity Crossing National Borders] ] may soon do the same in larger countries, such as China or India. [ [http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/HG21Df01.html Asia Times Online :: South Asia news - India grows a grain crisis] ] The water tables are falling in scores of countries (including Northern China, the US, and India) due to widespread overpumping using powerful diesel and electric pumps. Other countries affected include Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. This will eventually lead to water scarcity and cutbacks in grain harvest. Even with the overpumping of its aquifers, China is developing a grain deficit. [ [http://www.globalenvision.org/library/2/887/ Outgrowing the Earth] ] When this happens, it will almost certainly drive grain prices upward. Most of the 3 billion people projected to be added worldwide by mid-century will be born in countries already experiencing water shortages. After China and India, there is a second tier of smaller countries with large water deficits — Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Mexico, and Pakistan. Four of these already import a large share of their grain. Only Pakistan remains self-sufficient. But with a population expanding by 4 million a year, it will also likely soon turn to the world market for grain. [ [http://www.i-sis.org.uk/TFBE.php The Food Bubble Economy] ] [ [http://www.greatlakesdirectory.org/zarticles/080902_water_shortages.htm Global Water Shortages May Lead to Food Shortages-Aquifer Depletion] ]

Land degradation

Intensive farming often leads to a vicious cycle of exhaustion of soil fertility and decline of agricultural yields. [ [http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/2006/Update61.htm The Earth Is Shrinking: Advancing Deserts and Rising Seas Squeezing Civilization] ] Approximately 40% of the world's agricultural land is seriously degraded. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/aug/31/climatechange.food Global food crisis looms as climate change and population growth strip fertile land] ] In Africa, if current trends of soil degradation continue, the continent might be able to feed just 25% of its population by 2025, according to UNU's Ghana-based Institute for Natural Resources in Africa. [ [http://news.mongabay.com/2006/1214-unu.html Africa may be able to feed only 25% of its population by 2025] ]

Climate Change

Agriculture

According to a UN climate report, the Himalayan glaciers that are the principal dry-season water sources of Asia's biggest rivers - Ganges, Indus, Brahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween and Yellow - could disappear by 2035 as temperatures rise. [ [http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/42387/story.htm Vanishing Himalayan Glaciers Threaten a Billion] ] Approximately 2.4 billion people live in the drainage basin of the Himalayan rivers. [ [http://www.peopleandplanet.net/pdoc.php?id=3024 Big melt threatens millions, says UN] ] India, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar could experience floods followed by severe droughts in coming decades. [ [http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90001/90781/90879/6222327.html Glaciers melting at alarming speed] ] In India alone, the Ganges provides water for drinking and farming for more than 500 million people. [ [http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/jul/24indus.htm Ganges, Indus may not survive: climatologists] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3998967.stm Himalaya glaciers melt unnoticed] ] The west coast of North America, which gets much of its water from glaciers in mountain ranges such as the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada, also would be affected. [ [http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080317154235.htm Glaciers Are Melting Faster Than Expected, UN Reports] ]

Children

On 2008-04-29, a UNICEF UK report found that the world’s poorest and most vulnerable children are being hit the hardest by the impact of climate change. The report, “Our Climate, Our Children, Our Responsibility: The Implications of Climate Change for the World’s Children,” says access to clean water and food supplies will become more difficult, particularly in Africa and Asia. [ [http://www.unicef.org.uk/press/news_detail_full_story.asp?news_id=1120 UNICEF UK News :: News item :: The tragic consequences of climate change for the world’s children :: 29 April 2008 00:00 ] ]

Wheat stem rust

An epidemic of stem rust on wheat caused by race Ug99 is currently spreading across Africa and into Asia and is causing major concern. A virulent wheat disease could destroy most of the world’s main wheat crops, leaving millions to starve. The fungus has spread from Africa to Iran, and may already be in Pakistan. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/apr/22/food.foodanddrink Millions face famine as crop disease rages] ] cite journal | url = http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/mg19425983.700-billions-at-risk-from-wheat-superblight.html
journal = New Scientist Magazine |title=Billions at risk from wheat super-blight |year=2007-04-03
accessdate = 2007-04-19 |issue=issue 2598 |pages = 6–7
] [ [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/8112190676ab183b80e80199f821ef93.htm IRAN: Killer fungus threatens wheat production in western areas] ]

Dictatorship and kleptocracy

As the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has observed that "there is no such thing as an apolitical food problem." While drought and other naturally occurring events may trigger famine conditions, it is government action or inaction that determines its severity, and often even whether or not a famine will occur. The 20th century is full of examples of governments undermining the food security of their own nations – sometimes intentionally.

When governments come to power by force or rigged elections, and not by way of fair and open elections, their base of support is often narrow and built upon cronyism and patronage. Under such conditions "The distribution of food within a country is a political issue. Governments in most countries give priority to urban areas, since that is where the most influential and powerful families and enterprises are usually located. The government often neglects subsistence farmers and rural areas in general. The more remote and underdeveloped the area the less likely the government will be to effectively meet its needs. Many agrarian policies, especially the pricing of agricultural commodities, discriminate against rural areas. Governments often keep prices of basic grains at such artificially low levels that subsistence producers can not accumulate enough capital to make investments to improve their production. Thus, they are effectively prevented from getting out of their precarious situation." [Fred Cuny – Famine, Conflict, and Response: a Basic Guide; Kumarian Press, 1999. ]

Further dictators and warlords have used food as a political weapon, rewarding their supporters while denying food supplies to areas that oppose their rule. Under such conditions food becomes a currency with which to buy support and famine becomes an effective weapon to be used against the opposition.

Governments with strong tendencies towards kleptocracy can undermine food security even when harvests are good. When government monopolizes trade, farmers may find that they are free to grow cash crops for export, but under penalty of law only able to sell their crops to government buyers at prices far below the world market price. The government then is free to sell their crop on the world market at full price, pocketing the difference. This creates an artificial "poverty trap" from which even the most hard working and motivated farmers may not escape.

When the rule of law is absent, or private property is non-existent, farmers have little incentive to improve their productivity. If a farm becomes noticeably more productive than neighboring farms, it may become the target of individuals well connected to the government. Rather than risk being noticed and possibly losing their land, farmers may be content with the perceived safety of mediocrity.

As pointed out by William Bernstein in his book "The Birth of Plenty": "Individuals without property are susceptible to starvation, and it is much easier to bend the fearful and hungry to the will of the state. If a [farmer's] property can be arbitrarily threatened by the state, that power will inevitably be employed to intimidate those with divergent political and religious opinions."

Economic approaches

There are many economic approaches advocated to improve food security in developing countries. Three typical approaches are listed below. The first is typical of what is advocated by most governments and international agencies. The other two are more common to non-governmental organizations (NGO’s).

Westernized view

Conventional thinking in westernized countries is that maximizing the farmers profit is the surest way of maximizing agricultural production; the higher a farmer’s profit, the greater the effort that will be forthcoming, and the greater the risk the farmer is willing to take. Fact|date=February 2007

This view holds that it is the governments job to place into the hands of farmers the largest number and highest quality tools possible (tools is used here to refer to improved production techniques, improved seeds, secure land tenure, accurate weather forecasts, etc.) However, it is left to the individual farmer to pick and choose which tools to use, and how to use them, as farmers have intimate knowledge of their own land and local conditions.

As with other businesses, a percentage of the profits are normally reinvested into the business in the hopes of increasing production, and hence increase future profits. Normally higher profits translate into higher spending on technologies designed to boost production, such as drip irrigation systems, agriculture education, and greenhouses. An increased profit also increases the farmer’s incentive to engage in double-cropping, soil improvement programs, and expanding usable area.

Food justice

An alternative view takes a collective approach to achieve food security. It notes that globally enough food is produced to feed the entire world population at a level adequate to ensure that everyone can be free of hunger and fear of starvation. That no one should live without enough food because of economic constraints or social inequalities is the basic goal.

This approach is often referred to as food justice and views food security as a basic human right. It advocates fairer distribution of food, particularly grain crops, as a means of ending chronic hunger and malnutrition. The core of the Food Justice movement is the belief that what is lacking is not food, but the political will to fairly distribute food regardless of the recipient’s ability to pay.

Food sovereignty

A third approach is known as food sovereignty; though it overlaps with food justice on several points, the two are not identical. It views the business practices of multinational corporations as a form of neocolonialism. It contends that multinational corporations have the financial resources available to buy up the agricultural resources of impoverished nations, particularly in the tropics. They also have the political clout to convert these resources to the exclusive production of cash crops for sale to industrialized nations outside of the tropics, and in the process to squeeze the poor off of the more productive lands. Under this view subsistence farmers are left to cultivate only lands that are so marginal in terms of productivity as to be of no interest to the multinational corporations.

It advocates banning the production of most cash crops in developing nations, thereby leaving the local farmers to concentrate on subsistence crops. In addition it opposes allowing low-cost subsidized food from industrialized nations into developing countries, what is referred to as "import dumping".

World Food Summit

The World Food Summit was held in Rome in 1996 , with the aim of renewing global commitment to the fight against hunger. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) called the summit in response to widespread under-nutrition and growing concern about the capacity of agriculture to meet future food needs. The conference produced two key documents, the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food SummitPlan of Action. The Rome Declaration calls for the members of the United Nations to work to halve the number of chronically undernourished people on the Earth by the year 2015. The Plan of Action sets a number of targets for government and non-governmental organizations for achieving food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels.

Achieving food security

"The number of people without enough food to eat on a regular basis remains stubbornly high, at over 800 million, and is not falling significantly. Over 60% of the world's undernourished people live in Asia, and a quarter in Africa. The proportion of people who are hungry, however, is greater in Africa (33%) than Asia (16%). The latest FAO figures indicate that there are 22 countries, 16 of which are in Africa, in which the undernourishment prevalence rate is over 35%." [Food and Agriculture Organization] In its "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2003", FAO states that: [ [http://www.fao.org/documents/show_cdr.asp?url_file=/docrep/006/j0083e/j0083e00.htm The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2003 ] ] :'In general the countries that succeeded in reducing hunger were characterised by more rapid economic growth and specifically more rapid growth in their agricultural sectors. They also exhibited slower population growth, lower levels of HIV and higher ranking in the Human Development Index'.

As such, according to FAO, addressing agriculture and population growth is vital to achieving food security. Other organisations and people (eg Peter Singer, ...) too have come to this conclusion and advocate improvements in agriculture, and population control [ [http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/1972----.htm Peter Singer advocating population control] ]

USAID [ [http://www.usaid.gov/our_work/agriculture/food_security.htm USAID - Food Security ] ] proposes several key steps to increasing agricultural productivity which is in turn key to increasing rural income and reducing food insecurity. They include:
*Boosting agricultural science and technology. Current agricultural yields are insufficient to feed the growing populations. Eventually, the rising agricultural productivity drives economic growth.
*Securing property rights and access to finance.
*Enhancing human capital through education and improved health.
*Conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms and democracy and governance based on principles of accountability and transparency in public institutions and the rule of law are basic to reducing vulnerable members of society.

The UN Millennium Development Goals are one of the initiatives aimed at achieving food security in the world. In its list of goals, the first Millennium Development Goal states that the UN "is to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty", and that "agricultural productivity is likely to play a key role in this if it is to be reached on time".

"Of the eight Millennium Development Goals, eradicating extreme hunger and poverty depends on agriculture the most. (MDG 1 calls for halving hunger and poverty by 2015 in relation to 1990.)

Notably, the gathering of wild food plants appears to be an efficient alternative method of subsistence in tropical countries, which may play a role in poverty alleviation. [cite journal |author=Claudio O. Delang |title=The role of wild food plants in poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation in tropical countries |journal=Progress in Development Studies |year=2006 |volume=6 |issue=4 |pages=275–286 |doi=10.1191/1464993406ps143oa]

The agriculture-hunger-poverty nexus

Eradicating hunger and poverty requires an understanding of the ways in which these two injustices interconnect. Hunger, and the malnourishment that accompanies it, prevents poor people from escaping poverty because it diminishes their ability to learn, work, and care for themselves and their family members. Food insecurity exists when people are undernourished as a result of the physical unavailability of food, their lack of social or economic access to adequate food, and/or inadequate food utilization. Food-insecure people are those individuals whose food intake falls below their minimum calorie (energy) requirements, as well as those who exhibit physical symptoms caused by energy and nutrient deficiencies resulting from an inadequate or unbalanced diet or from the body's inability to use food effectively because of infection or disease. An alternative view would define the concept of food insecurity as referring only to the consequence of inadequate consumption of nutritious food, considering the physiological utilization of food by the body as being within the domain of nutrition and health. Malnourishment also leads to poor health hence individuals fail to provide for their families. If left unaddressed, hunger sets in motion an array of outcomes that perpetuate malnutrition, reduce the ability of adults to work and to give birth to healthy children, and erode children's ability to learn and lead productive, healthy, and happy lives. This truncation of human development undermines a country's potential for economic development – for generations to come.

There are strong, direct relationships between agricultural productivity, hunger, and poverty. Three-quarters of the world's poor live in rural areas and make their living from agriculture. Hunger and child malnutrition are greater in these areas than in urban areas. Moreover, the higher the proportion of the rural population that obtains its income solely from subsistence farming (without the benefit of pro-poor technologies and access to markets), the higher the incidence of malnutrition. Therefore, improvements in agricultural productivity aimed at small-scale farmers will benefit the rural poor first.

Increased agricultural productivity enables farmers to grow more food, which translates into better diets and, under market conditions that offer a level playing field, into higher farm incomes. With more money, farmers are more likely to diversify production and grow higher-value crops, benefiting not only themselves but the economy as a whole." [http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/books/ar2003/ar2003_essayall.htm Agriculture, Food Security, Nutrition and the Millennium Development Goals 2003-2004 IFPRI Annual Report Essay Joachim von Braun, M. S. Swaminathan, and Mark W. Rosegrant]

Biotechnology for smallholders in the (sub)tropics

The area sown to genetically engineered crops in developing countries is rapidly catching-up with the area sown in industrial nations. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), genetically engineered (biotech, GM) crops were grown by approximately 8.5 million farmers in 21 countries in 2005, up from 8.25 million farmers in 17 countries in 2004. The largest increase in biotech crop area in any country in 2005 was in Brazil, provisionally estimated at 44,000 km² (94,000 km² in 2005 compared with 50,000 km² in 2004. India had by far the largest year-on-year proportional increase, with almost a threefold increase from 5,000 km² in 2004 to 13,000 km² in 2005 [http://www.isaaa.org/ ISAAA Briefs 34-2005: Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2005] .

Current high regulatory costs imposed on varieties created by the more modern methods are a significant hurdle for development of genetically engineered crops well suited to developing country farmers by modern genetic methods. Once a new variety is developed, however, seed provides a good vehicle for distribution of improvements in a package that is familiar to the farmer.

Currently there are some institutes and research groups that have projects in which biotechnology is shared with contact people in less-developed countries on a non-profit basis. These institutes make use of biotechnological methods that do not involve high research and registration costs, such as conservation and multiplication of germplasm and phytosanitation.

Risks to food security

Fossil fuel dependence

While agricultural output increased as a result of the Green Revolution, the energy input into the process (that is, the energy that must be expended to produce a crop) has also increased at a greater rate, so that the ratio of crops produced to energy input has decreased over time. Green Revolution techniques also heavily rely on chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, some of which must be developed from fossil fuels, making agriculture increasingly reliant on petroleum products.

Between 1950 and 1984, as the Green Revolution transformed agriculture around the globe, world grain production increased by 250%. The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon fueled irrigation. [http://www.energybulletin.net/281.html, Eating Fossil Fuels. EnergyBulletin.net]

David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell University, and Mario Giampietro, senior researcher at the National Research Institute on Food and Nutrition (INRAN), place in theirs study "Food, Land, Population and the U.S. Economy" the maximum U.S. population for a sustainable economy at 200 million. To achieve a sustainable economy and avert disaster, the United States must reduce its population by at least one-third, and world population will have to be reduced by two-thirds, says study. [http://www.soilassociation.org/peakoil, Peak Oil: the threat to our food security]

The authors of this study believe that the mentioned agricultural crisis will only begin to impact us after 2020, and will not become critical until 2050. The oncoming peaking of global oil production (and subsequent decline of production), along with the peak of North American natural gas production will very likely precipitate this agricultural crisis much sooner than expected. Geologist Dale Allen Pfeiffer claims that coming decades could see spiraling food prices without relief and massive starvation on a global level such as never experienced before. [http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/2225,Agriculture Meets Peak Oil]

However, one should take note that, (numbers taken from the CIA World Factbook), the country of Bangladesh achieved food self-sufficiency in 2002 with both a far higher population density than the USA (~1000 inhabitants per square kilometer in comparison to just 30/km2 for the USA - so this is more than 30 times as many) at only a tiny fraction of the USA's usage of oil, gas, and electricity. Also, pre-industrial Chinese mini-framers/gardeners developed techniques to feed a population of more than 1000 people per square kilometer (cf. e.g. F.H. King's 1911 report, "Farmers of Forty Centuries"). Hence, the dominant problem is not energy availability but the need to stop and revert soil degradation.Fact|date=March 2008

Genetic erosion in agricultural and livestock biodiversity

Genetic erosion in agricultural and livestock biodiversity is the loss of genetic diversity, including the loss of individual genes, and the loss of particular combinants of genes (or gene complexes) such as those manifested in locally adapted landraces of domesticated animals or plants adapted to the natural environment in which they originated. The term genetic erosion is sometimes used in a narrow sense, such as for the loss of alleles or genes, as well as more broadly, referring to the loss of varieties or even species. The major driving forces behind genetic erosion in crops are: variety replacement, land clearing, overexploitation of species, population pressure, environmental degradation, overgrazing, policy and changing agricultural systems.

The main factor, however, is the replacement of local varieties of domestic plants and animals by high yielding or exotic varieties or species. A large number of varieties can also often be dramatically reduced when commercial varieties (including GMOs) are introduced into traditional farming systems. Many researchers believe that the main problem related to agro-ecosystem management is the general tendency towards genetic and ecological uniformity imposed by the development of modern agriculture.

Threats from conventional hybridization for higher yield, genetic engineering and the resulting loss of biodiversity

In agriculture and animal husbandry, green revolution popularized the use of conventional hybridization to increase yield many folds by creating "high-yielding varieties". Often the handful of breeds of plants and animals hybridized originated in developed countries and were further hybridized with local verities, in the rest of the developing world, to create high yield strains resistant to local climate and diseases. Local governments and industry since have been pushing hybridization with such zeal that several of the wild and indigenous breeds evolved locally over thousands of years having high resistance to local extremes in climate and immunity to diseases etc. have already become extinct or are in grave danger of becoming so in the near future. Due to complete disuse because of un-profitability and uncontrolled intentional, compounded with unintentional crosspollination and crossbreeding (genetic pollution) formerly huge gene pools of various wild and indigenous breeds have collapsed causing widespread genetic erosion and genetic pollution resulting in great loss in genetic diversity and biodiversity as a whole. [http://www.farmedia.org/bulletins/bulletin28.html “Genetic Pollution: The Great Genetic Scandal”; Devinder Sharma can be contacted at: 7 Triveni Apartments, A-6 Paschim Vihar, New Delhi-110 063, India. Email: dsharma@ndf.vsnl.net.in. CENTRE FOR ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURAL MEDIA (CAAM)., [http://www.infochangeindia.org/features43.jsp] .A genetically modified organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using the genetic engineering techniques generally known as recombinant DNA technology. Genetic Engineering today may cause genetic pollution because artificially created and genetically engineered plants and animals in laboratories, which could never have evolved in nature even with conventional hybridization, can live and breed on their own and interbreed with their crop wild relatives. Genetic pollution may not only affect wild relatives but also landraces [cite book |author=Norman C. Ellstrand |title=Dangerous liaisons?: when cultivated plants mate with their wild relatives |publisher=Johns Hopkins University Press |location=Baltimore |year=2003 |pages= |isbn=0-8018-7405-X |oclc= |doi= |accessdate= cite journal |author=Strauss SH, DiFazio SP |title=Book Review: Hybrids abounding |journal=Nature Biotechnology |volume=22 |issue=1 |pages=29–30 |year=2004 |doi=10.1038/nbt0104-29 |url=http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v22/n1/full/nbt0104-29.html] [http://www.fao.org/DOCREP/003/X3910E/X3910E00.htm “Genetic pollution: Uncontrolled spread of genetic information (frequently referring to transgenes) into the genomes of organisms in which such genes are not present in nature.” Zaid, A. et al. 1999. Glossary of biotechnology and genetic engineering. FAO Research and Technology Paper No. 7. ISBN 92-5-104369-8] [http://plpa.cfans.umn.edu/~neviny/agri1501/definitions.html “Genetic pollution: Uncontrolled escape of genetic information (frequently refering to products of genetic engineering) into the genomes of organisms in the environment where those genes never existed before.” Searchable Biotechnology Dictionary. University of Minnesota.]

Price setting

On April 30, 2008 Thailand announces the project of the creation of the Organisation of Rice Exporting Countries with the potential to develop into a price-fixing cartel for rice. [ [http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/news/stories/200804/s2232076.htm?tab=asia|Radio Australia|April 30, 2008|Mekong nations to form rice price-fixing cartel] ] [ [http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/01May2008_news07.php|Bankok Post|May 1, 2008|PM floats idea of five-nation rice cartel] ]

See also

* 2020 Vision Initiative
* Afrique verte
* Allotment gardens
* Animal husbandry
* Countries by fertility rate
* Community Food Security Coalition
* Community gardening
* Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
* Diseases of poverty
* Ecological sanitation
* End of civilization
* Famine Early Warning Systems Network
* Food and Agriculture Organization
* Food vs fuel
* Food safety
* Green revolution
* Integrated Food Security Phase Classification
* International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development
* International development
* International Food Policy Research Institute
* International Fund for Agricultural Development
* Land reform
* List of famines
* Local food
* Malawian food crisis
* Megacity
* Natural disaster
* Norman Borlaug
* Overpopulation
* Poverty
* Population control
* Peak oil
* Right to food
* Survivalism
* Urban agriculture
* World Food Day
* World population
* 2007–2008 world food price crisis

References

ources

* Cox, P. G., S. Mak, G. C. Jahn, and S. Mot. 2001. Impact of technologies on food security and poverty alleviation in Cambodia: designing research processes. pp. 677-684 In S. Peng and B. Hardy [eds.] “Rice Research for Food Security and Poverty Alleviation.” Proceeding the International Rice Research Conference, 31 March – 3 April 2000, Los Baños, Philippines. Los Baños (Philippines): International Rice Research Institute. 692 p.
* Singer, H. W. (1997). A global view of food security. "Agriculture + Rural Development", 4: 3-6. Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CTA).
* von Braun, Joachim; Swaminathan, M. S.; Rosegrant, Mark W. 2004. [http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/books/ar2003/ar2003_essay.htm#download Agriculture, food security, nutrition and the Millennium Development Goals] (Annual Report Essay) Washington, D.C.: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Further reading

* [http://www.ifpri.org/pubs/books/oc46.htm Biotechnology, Agriculture, and Food Security in Southern Africa] Edited by Steven Were Omamo and Klaus von Grebmer (2005) (Brief and Book available)
*cite journal |author=Brown ME, Funk CC |title=Climate. Food security under climate change |journal=Science (New York, N.Y.) |volume=319 |issue=5863 |pages=580–1 |year=2008 |month=Feb |pmid=18239116 |doi=10.1126/science.1154102 |url=.
*cite journal |author=Lobell DB, Burke MB, Tebaldi C, Mastrandrea MD, Falcon WP, Naylor RL |title=Prioritizing climate change adaptation needs for food security in 2030 |journal=Science (New York, N.Y.) |volume=319 |issue=5863 |pages=607–10 |year=2008 |month=Feb |pmid=18239122 |doi=10.1126/science.1152339 |url=

External links

* [http://www.fao.org/es/ess/faostat/foodsecurity/index_en.htm FAO Food Security Statistics]
* [http://www.fao.org/wfs/index_en.htm The World Food Summit]
* [http://km.fao.org/fsn/ The Food Security and Nutrition Forum]
* [http://www.foodsec.org/dl e-learning about Food Security from FAO]
* [http://www.fao.org/righttofood/kc/dl_en.htm e-learning about Right to Food]
* [http://www.ifpri.org/media/20050811Outlook2025.asp IFPRI Food Security Outlook in Africa to 2025]
* [http://www.foodsecurity.org/ Community Food Security Coalition]
* [http://topics.developmentgateway.org/foodsecurity Food Security dgCommunity]
* [http://uk.oneworld.net/guides/food One World UK - Food Security]
* [http://www.merid.org/fs-agbiotech/ Food Security and Ag-Biotech News]
* [http://www.wilsoncenter.org/index.cfm?topic_id=116811&fuseaction=topics.event_summary&event_id=201764 Video: Food Security and Its Impact on International Development and HIV Reduction] (October 16, 2006) A Woodrow Wilson Center event featuring Jordan Dey, UNFP; William Noble, Africare; and Suneetha Kadiyala, IFPRI
* [http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/48893/story.htm Biotech Crops Seen Helping to Feed Hungry World]
* [http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2008/0708collins.html Hot Commodities, Stuffed Markets, and Empty Bellies What's behind higher food prices?] from Dollars & Sense July/August 2008
* [http://www.food-security.net Food Crisis Prevention Network website]
* [http://foodsecurity.developmentgateway.org/Content-item-view.10976+M5ce7bbfcaeb.0.html Food Security: A Review of Literature from Ethiopia to India (Geopolicity)]


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