Ultimately, what matters most is “bread and butter” politics.

It’s easy to obsess about the current state of Europe’s economy, but there’s no shortage of other challenges facing the world right now; issues like energy security, resource shortages and climate change haven’t gone away. Feeding an ever-expanding global population (predicted to exceed 9 billion by 2050) sits fairly high up the list of important issues.

Food security is one of those issues that has a huge impact on other areas, including economic growth, political stability and poverty. Public disquiet over rising food prices in 2007-2008 was the spark that helped light the Arab Spring. The effects of getting it wrong can be devastating; during the summer of 2011, the worst drought in 60 years struck East Africa, leading to famine and tens of thousands of deaths. Lessons have been learned, however; in 2012, Niger suffered its worst food crisis in a decade, but the government’s response was described as a “success story” by NGOs.

There are numerous international fora where organisations and governments can discuss with these issues. For example, every year the European Commission hosts EU Development Days, a two-day forum on international affairs and development cooperation that sees Heads of State, Nobel Prize laureates, business leaders, and development professionals meet to discuss some of the global issue (such as food security) that are at risk of slipping down the international agenda in the wake of the economic crisis.

Despite these efforts, problems persist. We spoke to Olivier de Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. He underlined just how inefficient the current system really is:

About one-third of all the food we produce each year is not consumed; about 1.3 billion tons of cereals are being lost or wasted. These are either losses in developing countries, resulting from poor storage facilities or crops rotting before they can be sold and passed onto consumers; or, in developed countries, supermarkets discard food before it is consumed. A quantity of food equivilant to the entire food production of Sub-Saharan Africa is just thrown away each year.

What do YOU think? How can we ensure greater food security for the world’s hungry? Could new technologies help us grow food more effectively? Or do we need to stop wasting so much food, and try to be more efficient in how we consume? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts to hear their reactions.

Ahead of the 2012 European Development Days forum, the International Development site DevEx (an official partner of EU DevDays) published an interview with Gordon Conway – agricultural ecologist, professor of international development at the Centre for Environmental Policy, and director of Agriculture for Impact at Imperial College, London. You can read the interview here.

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Jonny Boy

26 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Todor Borissov

    ,By ceasing food charity for Africa which is the way the African agriculture was suffocated to death! That is how! Africa has never been hungry until 20th century when Europe and USA began dumping there their excess harvests due to subsidizing.

  2. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    “Decommodify” agriculture… All these subsidies and rules and regulations are there to make more profits in the markets. We trade everything, soon we are going to trade for water and the air we breath. Isn’t it such a waste that some of our states are forced to bury their excess fruit and vegetable production because the market laws say so. All this excess food it could go to poorer regions instead of be thrown away. Or simply, allow the poorer regions to produce more and more food. Instead of giving them money that is being used for corruption, go and invest and build these better storage that they need or give them the know-how to produce more and better food.

    And about the UN…Nothing is working in there either. This organization is more outdated and out of touch than the EU.. It is still a post-war system, that is sluggish in making any decision. Just have a look at the Syria situation. Why? Because is still being seen as a chess mat for the big players of this world to keep the balance of power. Why are certain countries only aloud to be part of the security council? How many of them are African or of the so called “3rd world”? Who decides who enters the council and under what criteria? Are the voices of some worth more than others’ in this way? We need to reform the organization if we like to see any real progress in the world…

  3. avatar
    Omar Mateiro

    EThat’s not a very economical/eficient question, is it? We should-not even consider producing more without making good use of what we have in the first place.

  4. avatar
    catherine Benning

    Food shortage is a nonsense. And it is exacerbated by too much simple thinking and over control in areas that are not necessary.

    What needs to be addressed is the food produced in Europe for the European people by the European people. This is a vast continent and the production of food for the people should be an easy project. But it is not. And that is because you refuse to see various concerns are out to use shortages as a way to make unhealthy profits via futures markets, etc.. The offering of scientifically altered basics is totally ludicrous, costly and possibly dangerous. It is positively detrimental to human well being. Yet you embrace the concept. Why?

    If you make the food production in Europe ‘fit’ and morally acceptable this method will spread throughout the planet in abundance. And those who have a vested interest in shortage will be thwarted permanently. Pretending there is going to be a shortage or is a shortage is stopping you from centering on what must be done to prove that incorrect.

    Millions of human beings are waiting, breathless, for direction and leadership. Give it it them.

    • avatar
      caterhine benning

      As I wrote yesterday in respect of GM farming and the possible dangers of it, I thought I would add these findings of just how dangerous to each and every one of us it is.

      Yet, the worry in Europe as in the UK, is the making of more indecently sized profits from the manipulation of food for the exploited among us.

      Read this and be aware. Governments, planet wide, don’t want to reveal the truth of greed merchants aims or how much money they are making out of contaminating the food chain.

      Read all about it.

      And now they are using agent orange used in Vietnam to kill GM created weeds.

      Here it is.

      And last but by no means least, GM fed rats found with multiple tumours in very short time.

      We need a responsible government for our people. Not idiot believers who fall for the fancy footwork and bribes of American companies willing to make huge profits out of poisoning our food chain.

  5. avatar
    Laszlo Nagy

    There should be a complex economical development plan for these areas to produce more value so they can import more food for that.

  6. avatar
    Nikolai Holmov

    The answer, philosophically speaking, to this question and many others facing humanity probably is found best in this quote:

    “When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?” -Eleanor Roosevelt

    Thus certainly not in my lifetime and probably not until hell freezes over as avenging rather than preventing human suffering is par for the course.

  7. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    A Europa tem de tomar desisões sobre a agricultora queremos que voltem as pequenas e médias unidades de produção agricola para o desenvolvimento de uma agricultora sustentável na europa porque quem esta a controlar o mercado alimentar é a América Latina hoje os preços dos produtos alimentar estão em alta tanto na Europa como no resto do mundo queremos alimentos europeus

  8. avatar
    Hugh Annand

    The website (see link) has a good suggestion: a supranational body to manage buffer stocks and thus iron out surpluses and shortages, price spikes (that hurt consumers) and crashes (that hurt farmers).

  9. avatar
    Olga Werby

    My sons started a crowdmap project last year: Cost of Chicken. Their idea was to learn the true costs of food around the world — “if we don’t know the extent of the problem, we can’t really find the solutions that work”. That was their thinking. Kids from all over the world contributed data. Perhaps it’s a start of something…

  10. avatar

    A not so simple solution would be the creation of a Global Food Policy that would encompass food trade, food supply, subsidies and incentives for farmers in order to increase agricultural competitiveness and yields etc. But for this we have to do the impossible: reach a political consensus.

  11. avatar
    Tom Heyes

    Stop agricultural subsidies and tariffs in rich countries. Stop dumping surpluses; even in famine situations it’s often the case that food is available locally, just too expensive for most people, so in emergencies give cash locally to buy food and support local markets. More research on wasted food in low income countries and work with producers to devise ways to eliminate waste and to preserve and enhance the value of their product. Develop social security systems to support food purchase for the poor without creating perverse incentives. Stop distorting the market with subsidies for biofuels which are replacing food crops. Stop promoting harmful agricultural practices that benefit chemical manufacturers and create dependence on pesticides and fertilisers; instead use locally sustainable methods that improve soil.

  12. avatar

    I agree so much with you! However, I have the slight feeling, this is not the problem development cooperations will want to tackle, but rather debate possibilities to produce even more (to waste).

  13. avatar
    Robert Vincin

    How can we ensure global food security? Recognise the only assets of man and all living matter soil-water-vegetation-atmpsphere all else commodities. Only 2-6% of vegetation sequesters CO2 and grows soil (not trees)! Start in Africa with master plan. Within 1 year grazing 1-3 yrs growing food
    Teach the protocol demanded Farmers Herders will contribute to feeding their nation and neighbours and share in global carbon trading. Its an established protocol see Robert Vincin Google. Unless we aid developing nations to lead in sequestering CO2e lower the 300yrs of build-up and deserts to start the asset reparation then the demise will accelerate. The 3.5 living in poverty includes so called developed nations

  14. avatar
    William Davis

    Food Security in a nutshell requires the ability to assure clients of nutrition to offset the existing shortage. We do it by direct commodities but that causes dependence and is often less than useful due to culture and customs of clients. We change commodities into currency and that into direct or indirect aid. Often this is wasted or misused.

    Real food security must find credible ways to help people in danger to find ways to plant grow and consume adequate kinds and amounts of food stuff to assure basic health and growth. Local solutions to local problems will acheive more in the long run. Monetization of commodities to provide water, land, seed, and emergency relief while developing local solutions will bring about a better long term result.

    In the absence of land then food commodities, either direct or purchased through monetization, are our only answer even though the result will be a stop gap measure. But to do some good versus no good is well worth the effort. One life saved is worth it.

  15. avatar
    Marouschka Buyten

    Food security is not about whether there is enough food worldwide. There is. But that doesn’t help the millions of hungry people to prevent malnutrition. Food security is not even just about the availability of food in places where people are hungry. The availability of food means nothing if it’s not accessible to the people who need it because they have no money to pay for it or because there are no roads to get to the market. And the relief of hunger by humanitarian aid doesn’t increase food security in the long run.
    Food insecurity has many causes. Natural (drought, floods) or manmade(war, conflicts) disasters are among them. But economic development is another. It might be seen as a solution: where there is economic development people become less poor and hence more able to buy food. Yes, it does work that way. At the same time, no it doesn’t work that way for everybody and certainly not for the poorest. Prices of food go up more than they can afford and the problem gets aggravated when their possibilities to produce food themselves diminish also.
    Main cause of concern is land ownership. Big parts of fertile land are still sold to big investors for big money, without paying attention to the existing rights and needs of small-hold farmers. Large-scale agriculture is not bad per sé, on the contrary as it might improve agricultural productivity and the accessibility of food. But it is harmful when it destroys the little bit of food security local farmers have by chasing them away from the land they lived on for generations or by using up the majority of the water supply available.

  16. avatar

    Hello, I have a question about a specific topic, concerning Expo2015 and its sponsors. I am now working on a project about the controversial theme of McDonald’s as official sponsor at the Expo.

    I will be really grateful if you can give your opinion (few lines will be enough):

    McDonald’s has a very strong brand and excellent skills in spreading on the territory and organizing the supply. However, food is not healthy and the company contributes to obesity emergency and other food disorders.
    How could McDonald’s, in the future, starting from the Expo, uses its skills to help solving the nourishment problems in the world?

  17. avatar

    Monsanto EU drive starts in Ukraine imo and when Ukraine joins the EU we may well face GMO production invade EU countries. American company Monsanto has been spreading deadly production worldwide for quite a long time and now they are doing their nasty job in Ukraine judging by this
    I suspect some Monsanto products will penetrate EU countries soon. They’ll do it by hook or by crook, believe you me! On the island of Molokai actually converted into a GMO lab by Monsanto there were registered high instances of asthma, diabetes and cancer. I hate this to occur in the EU.

  18. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    Fond safety is a concern and our planet in rapid growth as resources diminish and the population increase solutions inteligent and reinforcements in rural health vreate jobs Mentalities change

  19. avatar

    While some people believe that people are making enough food to feed the planet and solve world hunger, others believe that there is not enough food to feed the world.
    In my opinion, if we join together to feed all the people of the world, we will succeed, and feed all the population because we do make enough food to feed all of the world, it has been proven, all we have to do is lower food consumption and share.
    We can solve world hunger together as one nation and make earth great.

  20. avatar

    Improve the water irrigation system.Social benefits and high incomes for farmers.
    Increase the area of farmland for growing crops and fields.Store the food in case there is a natural disaster.Raise people awareness of wasting the food while others are dying of hunger.

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