On January 28, Dave Simpson wrote on Hand picked (‘Redesigning the global food system’) about the recent release of the Foresight report, The Future of Food and Farming, which argues for fundamental change to the global food system if a rapidly expanding global population is to be fed over the next 40 years. On 10 February, the UK’s major public funders of food-related research published their coordinated research plan to help the world avoid a food security crisis.
The Global Food Security (GFS) programme aims to provide the world’s growing population with a sustainable and secure supply of safe, nutritious and affordable high quality food from less land and with lower inputs. The programme’s strategic plan (PDF 1MB) outlines how the programme partners intend to work together across four cross-disciplinary research themes for food security: economic resilience, resource efficiency, sustainable food production and supply, and sustainable, healthy and safe diets.
In addition to the GFS programme, other organizations are also conducting research into how to provide a safe and sustainable supply of food. Examples include:
The Southeast Asian Council for Food Security and Fair Trade (SEACON) with a main agenda targeted towards providing a coordinated approach as well as integrated initiatives and research in areas of food security and fair trade, covering the 4A's food security pillars: Availability, Accessibility, Affordability and Acceptability, founded on the principles of food sovereignty and human rights.
AGRA: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa which works to achieve a food secure and prosperous Africa through the promotion of rapid, sustainable agricultural growth based on smallholder farmers.
Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA) which provides feasible solutions for the sustainable development of Brazilian agribusiness through knowledge and technology generation and transfer.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada which provides information, research and technology, and policies and programmes to achieve security of the food system, health of the environment and innovation for growth.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development and related issues.
Wageningen University and Research Centre which provides education and generates knowledge in the field of life sciences and natural resources.
French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) which carries out research for high quality and healthy foods, competitive and sustainable agriculture and a preserved environment.
Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) which aims to achieve sustainable food security and reduce poverty in developing countries through scientific research and research-related activities in the fields of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, policy, and environment.
Collectively these organizations, and more like them, are looking at various ways of providing agricultural solutions that link biodiversity conservation with efforts to combat climate change and poverty, whilst sustainably producing enough nutritious, affordable foods to feed the world’s growing population into the future.
As an agricultural economist, it is good to see the link being made in many of the broad research programmes between the scientists working to improve productivity and the economists and decision makers working to ensure that the resulting increased food supply reaches those who need it. With food prices on international markets rising again, price volatility hits poor people the hardest, as they already spend the majority of their income on feeding their families. According to the World Bank, rising food prices have pushed 44 million people into poverty and hunger since June last year. The challenge is on, and multidisciplinary research programmes can be the best placed to deliver tangible results to the people that need it most – the food insecure.