Strategic Futurists; Value Systems Specialists


2014 - The International Year of Food Security

Tuesday 31 December 2013

Continuing his run of suggesting an annual theme and idea of world focus for the year ahead, Futurist Marcus Barber has declared 2014 to be the International Year of Food Security. 'The year ahead is going to bring into sharp focus, what has often been seen as an 'other-world' problem' Barber says. 'For a number of decades, lack of food and lack of access to food has resided in the domains of the developing world. With the confluence of climate impacts, land becoming unfit for food production, water stress, and costs, for perhaps the first time in living memory, these issues will be present in developed countries too'

Food security covers a much wider challenge than just access to food and this report on climate change, water and food security must be considered seriously.

Food Security also includes food quality and brings into awareness the difference between food, and food products - those high fat, high sugar manufactured goods that are food substitutes rather than natural foods. If costs of natural food goods are beyond the reach of everyday people, then this has a major impact on poor people who have few choices about dietary control. The downstream impact is shifted to costs associated with health and medical services. A short cut early on is often linked to downstream costs of much greater magnitude especially related to diabetes and obesity.

This position has been heightened by accident recently when McDonalds used its internal website to advise it's own staff to avoid fast foods due to health concerns. This link 'McDonald's to staff: Avoid Burgers and Fries' explains the challenge.

For many years, food security has been linked to over-population. To an extent this is generally accepted as accurate but when you consider that spoilage rates of food in transport is said to be up to 40%, then we can understand that an awful lot of food is produced that never makes it to the end consumer. The energy and resources lost in that model of production have been offset by the ability for countries to over produce the amount of food needed. But with the collapse in water sources and the poisoning of farmlands (see this article on China's polluted soils), such a position is no longer valid. Increasingly food desitined for overseas markets in the form of food aid, will need to be redirected to internal needs in developed countries.

As countries grapple with energy issues, there is additional emerging issue that I refer to as the 'Eat or Extract' dilemma. Simply put, with the frenzy of searching for new energy sources through untested technologies like fracking, societies are now faced with choosing between extraction of gas for energy needs, or maintenance of farmlands (a common target for fracking wells) for food production. Questions on fracking exist but one thing is very clear - the amount of fresh water used is extensive and that water is mixed with chemicals that are unfit for human consumption. Eat or Extract. 

In Australia there has been a marked increase in people accessing Material Aid agencies seeking food assistance. This problem is often tied into housing issues, but in recent times, the challenge is extending to people that might be considered 'suitably' housed, flagged in this report on Homlessness.  

There have been steps to address the issue with the rise in Farmers Markets, local food growers groups, food recovery agencies like the Foodshare Food Bank and Fareshare help minimise food wastage. Community gardens are increasing but are not guarantees especially as this example of New York City allowing a 40 year old community market garden to be bulldozed for a commercial development shows.

So this year with climate expected to damage crops, water stress increasing, Eat or Extract issues abound and food wastage still a huge source of loss, both developed and developing nations face a challenge for the issue of food access and production. For 2014 to be an area of focus then, we need it to be The International Year of Food Security 

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