The Challenges of Food Security

In the light of population growth and the constant risk of natural catastrophes, food security becomes an unavoidable political issue.

Background

Food security is becoming increasingly important to our world.The World Health Organization (WHO) defines food security as consisting of three pillars: food availability, food access, and food use. Issues which have always existed to threaten the availability of food to certain populations, such as corruption in politics and natural disaster are experiencing much newer pressures, such as the rural/urban imbalance; rapid population growth and climate change.

Although regions who suffer less from food security related problems, such as the US and Europe, have known about the problems faced in parts of Africa and Asia for quite some time, the problem persists. These problems are common in most developing and newly industrialized countries. Population growth usually happens as both a cause and an effect of developing an economy. At the same time, urbanization and the rise of a minority urban elite dictates the distribution of food. It is often this elite group who owns rural land and who is in charge of food policy and the voices of those suffering or those who would potentially suffer in the face of natural disaster is unheard. In addition to this, the pressures placed on rural farmers to produce large amounts of a single crop, for the purpose of market optimization, destroys the traditional model of self-sufficiency.

Why is Food Security Relevant?

Summits such as the World Summit on Food Security, which last took place in Rome in 2009, and the G8 Summit have discussed the steps needed to be taken to alleviate the pressures of global food imbalances. Solutions such as biotechnology, agricultural revolutions, improved transportation and communication infrastructure and gender equality have all been brought up. Yet despite such gatherings it was announced in 2009 by the United Nations that the number of people on the brink of starvation had topped one billion and this number continues to grow. The reasons for this are of economic, political, and social origin; but they all lead to the overall issue: the imbalance of food distribution.

The politics of countries facing food crises often hinder progress. It has been suggested that in India politicians seem to be sidelining food security policy despite the fact that the current system is ineffective. For China, inter-regional transportation of food is difficult and costly and inflation far exceeds the rate at which pay increases (for the majority). While China is taking steps to develop more cost-effective transportation of food and toying with the idea of cultivating more genetically modified crops which would make food production cheaper, there is little evidence of food security progress in India. China is also expanding its international food resources by investment in African agriculture.

However, despite the economic pressures placed on farmers, social and political pressures occur as well: Population growth, corruption and natural disaster are a threatening mix. The huge efforts by governments to grow their economies imply that food security has been overlooked; measures to truly secure food stock are being initiated. This cannot continue as issues such as natural disaster and population growth continue to threaten the livelihoods of people; without governments taking steps to ensure food security the problem will grow.

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