Food security is a condition related to the supply of food, and individuals’ access to it. There is evidence of being in use over 10,000 years ago, with central authorities in civilizations ancient China and ancient Egypt being known to release food from storage in times of famine. At the 1974 World Food Conference the term “food security” was defined with an emphasis on supply. Food security, they said, is the “availability at all times of adequate, nourishing, diverse, balanced and moderate world food supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices”. Later definitions added demand and access issues to the definition. The final report of the 1996 World Food Summit states that food security “exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.
Household food security exists when all members, at all times, have access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Individuals who are food secure do not live in hunger or fear of starvation. Food insecurity, on the other hand, is a situation of “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways”, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Food security incorporates a measure of resilience to future disruption or unavailability of critical food supply due to various risk factors including droughts, shipping disruptions, fuel shortages, economic instability, and wars. In the years 2011–2013, an estimated 842 million people were suffering from chronic hunger. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or FAO, identified the four pillars of food security as availability, access, utilization, and stability. The United Nations (UN) recognized the Right to Food in the Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and has since noted that it is vital for the enjoyment of all other rights.
The 1996 World Summit on Food Security declared that “food should not be used as an instrument for political and economic pressure”. According to the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, failed agriculture market regulation and the lack of anti-dumping mechanisms cause much of the world’s food scarcity and malnutrition.
Causes of food insecurity
There are different causes that can be, jointly or separately, the cause of a situation of food insecurity.
Shortage of water
Water deficits, which have already begun to cause increased imports of grain by many small countries, could have the same effect in large countries, such as China or India. 8 Water levelsthey have fallen in many countries significantly in different countries (such as in northern China, the US or India) as a result of the widespread over-exploitation of aquifers using mechanical pumps. This type of practices could lead, in these and other countries, to problems of water scarcity and to decreases in agricultural production. Most of the 3 billion people expected to be born by 2050 will be born in countries that are already experiencing water deficits. After China and India, there is a whole other group of smaller countries with significant water deficits, such as Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Mexicoand Pakistan.
Degradation of the soil
The agriculture intensive often leads to a vicious cycle of exhaustion of soil fertility and crop yields fall. It is estimated that approximately 40% of the world’s agricultural land is seriously degraded. In Africa, if land degradation trends continue, the continent will be able to feed only 25% of its population by 2025, according to the Institute for Natural Resources of Africa, part of the United Nations University.
The air pollution can reduce the production and quality of food. Ozone pollution, enhanced by greenhouse gas emissions from factories, automobiles and other sources, is another factor that can reduce the production of basic foodstuffs in agriculture.
Extreme events, such as droughts and floods, are forecast to increase as climate change and global warming takes hold. Ranging from overnight floods to gradually worsening droughts, these will have a range of effects on the agricultural sector. According to the Climate & Development Knowledge Network report Managing Climate Extremes and Disasters in the Agriculture Sectors: Lessons from the IPCC SREX Report, the effects will include changing productivity and livelihood patterns, economic losses, and effects on infrastructure, markets and food security. Food security in future will be linked to our ability to adapt agricultural systems to extreme events. An example of a shifting weather pattern would be a rise in temperatures. As temperatures rise due to climate change there is a risk of a diminished food supply due to heat damage.
Diseases affecting livestock or crops can have devastating effects on food availability especially if there are no contingency plans in place. For example, Ug99, a lineage of wheat stem rust which can cause up to 100% crop losses, is present in wheat fields in several countries in Africa and the Middle East and is predicted to spread rapidly through these regions and possibly further afield, potentially causing a wheat production disaster that would affect food security worldwide.
Governments sometimes have a narrow base of support, built upon cronyism and patronage. Fred Cuny pointed out in 1999 that under these 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 cannot accumulate enough capital to make investments to improve their production. Thus, they are effectively prevented from getting out of their precarious situation.”
Food security can be measured by calorie intake per person per day, available on a household budget. In general the objective of food security indicators and measures is to capture some or all of the main components of food security in terms of food availability, access and utilization or adequacy. While availability (production and supply) and utilization/adequacy (nutritional status/anthropometric measures) seemed much easier to estimate, thus more popular, access (ability to acquire sufficient quantity and quality) remain largely elusive. The factors influencing household food access are often context specific.
Several measures have been developed that aim to capture the access component of food security, with some notable examples developed by the USAID-funded Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance (FANTA) project, collaborating with Cornell and Tufts University and Africare and World Vision. These include:
Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) – continuous measure of the degree of food insecurity (access) in the household in the previous month
Household Dietary Diversity Scale (HDDS) – measures the number of different food groups consumed over a specific reference period (24hrs/48hrs/7days).
Household Hunger Scale (HHS)- measures the experience of household food deprivation based on a set of predictable reactions, captured through a survey and summarized in a scale.
Coping Strategies Index (CSI) – assesses household behaviours and rates them based on a set of varied established behaviours on how households cope with food shortages. The methodology for this research is based on collecting data on a single question: “What do you do when you do not have enough food, and do not have enough money to buy food?”
Food insecurity is measured in the United States by questions in the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The questions asked are about anxiety that the household budget is inadequate to buy enough food, inadequacy in the quantity or quality of food eaten by adults and children in the household, and instances of reduced food intake or consequences of reduced food intake for adults and for children. A National Academy of Sciences study commissioned by the USDA criticized this measurement and the relationship of “food security” to hunger, adding “it is not clear whether hunger is appropriately identified as the extreme end of the food security scale.”
The FAO, World Food Programme (WFP), and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) collaborate to produce The State of Food Insecurity in the World. The 2012 edition described improvements made by the FAO to the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) indicator that is used to measure rates of food insecurity. New features include revised minimum dietary energy requirements for individual countries, updates to the world population data, and estimates of food losses in retail distribution for each country. Measurements that factor into the indicator include dietary energy supply, food production, food prices, food expenditures, and volatility of the food system. The stages of food insecurity range from food secure situations to full-scale famine. A new peer-reviewed journal, Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, began publishing in 2009.
With its prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) indicator, the FAO reported that almost 870 million people were chronically undernourished in the years 2010–2012. This represents 12.5% of the global population, or 1 in 8 people. Higher rates occur in developing countries, where 852 million people (about 15% of the population) are chronically undernourished. The report noted that Asia and Latin America have achieved reductions in rates of undernourishment that put these regions on track for achieving the Millennium Development Goal of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015. The UN noted that about 2 billion people do not consume a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals. In India, the second-most populous country in the world, 30 million people have been added to the ranks of the hungry since the mid-1990s and 46% of children are underweight.
Examples of food insecurity
Famines have been frequent in world history. Some have killed millions and substantially diminished the population of a large area. The most common causes have been drought and war, but the greatest famines in history were caused by economic policy.
World Summit on Food Security
The World Summit on Food Security, held in Rome in 1996, aimed to renew a 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 Summit Plan of Action.
The Rome Declaration called 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 set a number of targets for government and non-governmental organizations for achieving food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels.
Another World Summit on Food Security took place at the FAO’s headquarters in Rome between November 16 and 18, 2009. The decision to convene the summit was taken by the Council of FAO in June 2009, at the proposal of FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf. Heads of state and government attended this summit.
Pillars of food security
The WHO states that there are three pillars that determine food security: food availability, food access, and food use and misuse. The FAO adds a fourth pillar: the stability of the first three dimensions of food security over time. In 2009, the World Summit on Food Security stated that the “four pillars of food security are availability, access, utilization, and stability”.
Food availability relates to the supply of food through production, distribution, and exchange. Food production is determined by a variety of factors including land ownership and use; soil management; crop selection, breeding, and management; livestock breeding and management; and harvesting. Crop production can be affected by changes in rainfall and temperatures. The use of land, water, and energy to grow food often competes with other uses, which can affect food production. Land used for agriculture can be used for urbanization or lost to desertification, salinization, and soil erosion due to unsustainable agricultural practices. Crop production is not required for a country to achieve food security. Nations don’t have to have the natural resources required to produce crops in order to achieve food security, as seen in the examples of Japan and Singapore.
Because food consumers outnumber producers in every country, food must be distributed to different regions or nations. Food distribution involves the storage, processing, transport, packaging, and marketing of food. Food-chain infrastructure and storage technologies on farms can also affect the amount of food wasted in the distribution process. Poor transport infrastructure can increase the price of supplying water and fertilizer as well as the price of moving food to national and global markets. Around the world, few individuals or households are continuously self-reliant for food. This creates the need for a bartering, exchange, or cash economy to acquire food. The exchange of food requires efficient trading systems and market institutions, which can affect food security. Per capita world food supplies are more than adequate to provide food security to all, and thus food accessibility is a greater barrier to achieving food security.
Food access refers to the affordability and allocation of food, as well as the preferences of individuals and households. The UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights noted that the causes of hunger and malnutrition are often not a scarcity of food but an inability to access available food, usually due to poverty. Poverty can limit access to food, and can also increase how vulnerable an individual or household is to food price spikes. Access depends on whether the household has enough income to purchase food at prevailing prices or has sufficient land and other resources to grow its own food. Households with enough resources can overcome unstable harvests and local food shortages and maintain their access to food.
There are two distinct types of access to food: direct access, in which a household produces food using human and material resources, and economic access, in which a household purchases food produced elsewhere. Location can affect access to food and which type of access a family will rely on. The assets of a household, including income, land, products of labor, inheritances, and gifts can determine a household’s access to food. However, the ability to access sufficient food may not lead to the purchase of food over other materials and services. Demographics and education levels of members of the household as well as the gender of the household head determine the preferences of the household, which influences the type of food that are purchased. A household’s access to enough and nutritious food may not assure adequate food intake of all household members, as intrahousehold food allocation may not sufficiently meet the requirements of each member of the household. The USDA adds that access to food must be available in socially acceptable ways, without, for example, resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies.
The next pillar of food security is food utilization, which refers to the metabolism of food by individuals. Once food is obtained by a household, a variety of factors affect the quantity and quality of food that reaches members of the household. In order to achieve food security, the food ingested must be safe and must be enough to meet the physiological requirements of each individual. Food safety affects food utilization, and can be affected by the preparation, processing, and cooking of food in the community and household. Nutritional values of the household determine food choice, and whether food meets cultural preferences is important to utilization in terms of psychological and social well-being. Access to healthcare is another determinant of food utilization, since the health of individuals controls how the food is metabolized. For example, intestinal parasites can take nutrients from the body and decrease food utilization. Sanitation can also decrease the occurrence and spread of diseases that can affect food utilization. Education about nutrition and food preparation can affect food utilization and improve this pillar of food security.
Food stability refers to the ability to obtain food over time. Food insecurity can be transitory, seasonal, or chronic. In transitory food insecurity, food may be unavailable during certain periods of time. At the food production level, natural disasters and drought result in crop failure and decreased food availability. Civil conflicts can also decrease access to food. Instability in markets resulting in food-price spikes can cause transitory food insecurity. Other factors that can temporarily cause food insecurity are loss of employment or productivity, which can be caused by illness. Seasonal food insecurity can result from the regular pattern of growing seasons in food production.
Chronic (or permanent) food insecurity is defined as the long-term, persistent lack of adequate food. In this case, households are constantly at risk of being unable to acquire food to meet the needs of all members. Chronic and transitory food insecurity are linked, since the reoccurrence of transitory food security can make households more vulnerable to chronic food insecurity.
Effects of food insecurity
Famine and hunger are both rooted in food insecurity. Chronic food insecurity translates into a high degree of vulnerability to famine and hunger; ensuring food security presupposes elimination of that vulnerability.
Stunting and chronic nutritional deficiencies
Many countries experience ongoing food shortages and distribution problems. These result in chronic and often widespread hunger amongst significant numbers of people. Human populations can 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 after the age of about two years is unable to reverse the damage. Stunting itself can be viewed as a coping mechanism, bringing 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 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 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. It therefore creates disparity among children who did not experience severe malnutrition and those who experience it.
Children and food security
On April 29, 2008, a UNICEF UK report found that the world’s poorest and most vulnerable children are being hit the hardest by climate change. The report, “Our Climate, Our Children, Our Responsibility: The Implications of Climate Change for the World’s Children”, says that access to clean water and food supplies will become more difficult, particularly in Africa and Asia.
According to a 2015 Congressional Budget Office report on child nutrition programs, it is more likely that food insecure children will participate in school nutrition programs than children from food secure families. School nutrition programs, such as the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and the School Breakfast Program (SBP) have provided millions of children access to healthier lunch and breakfast meals, since their inceptions in the mid-1900s. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NSLP has served over 300 million, while SBP has served about 10 million students each day. Nevertheless, far too many qualifying students still fail to receive these benefits simply due to not submitting the necessary paperwork. Multiple studies have reported that school nutrition programs play an important role in ensuring students are accessing healthy meals. Students who ate school lunches provided by NLSP showed higher diet quality than if they had their own lunches. Even more, the USDA improved standards for school meals, which ultimately lead to positive impacts on children’s food selection and eating habits.
Despite the sizable populations served by these programs, Conservatives have regularly targeted these programs for defunding. Conservatives’ arguments against school nutrition programs include fear of wasting food and fraud from applications. On January 23, 2017, H.R.610 was introduced to the House by Republican Representative Steve King. The bill seeks to repeal a rule set by the Food and Nutrition Service of the Department of Agriculture, which mandates schools to provide more nutritious and diverse foods across the food plate. Two months later, the Trump administration released a preliminary 2018 budget that proposed a $2 billion cut from WIC.
Food insecurity in children can lead to developmental impairments and long term consequences such as weakened physical, intellectual and emotional development.
Food insecurity also related to obesity for people living in neighborhoods where nutritious food are unavailable or unaffordable.
Gender and food security
Gender inequality both leads to and is a result of food insecurity. According to estimates women and girls make up 60% of the world’s chronically hungry and little progress has been made in ensuring the equal right to food for women enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Women face discrimination both in education and employment opportunities and within the household, where their bargaining power is lower. Women’s employment is essential for not only advancing gender equality within the workforce, but ensuring a sustainable future as it means less pressure for high birth rates and net migration. On the other hand, gender equality is described as instrumental to ending malnutrition and hunger.
Women tend to be responsible for food preparation and childcare within the family and are more likely to spend their income on food and their children’s needs. Women also play an important role in food production, processing, distribution and marketing. They often work as unpaid family workers, are involved in subsistence farming and represent about 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, varying from 20% in Latin America to 50% in Eastern and Southeastern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. However, women face discrimination in access to land, credit, technologies, finance and other services. Empirical studies suggest that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, women could boost their yields by 20–30%; raising the overall agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4%. While those are rough estimates, the significant benefit of closing the gender gap on agricultural productivity cannot be denied. The gendered aspects of food security are visible along the four pillars of food security: availability, access, utilization and stability, as defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization.
The number of people affected by hunger is extremely high, with enormous effects on women and girls. Making this trend disappear “must be a top priority for governments and international institutions”. Actions governments take must take into consideration that food insecurity is an issue regarding “equality, rights and social justice”. “Food and nutrition insecurity is a political and economic phenomenon fuelled by inequitable global and national processes”. Factors like capitalism, exploration of Indigenous lands all contribute to food insecurity for minorities and the people who are the most oppressed in various countries (women being one of these oppressed groups). To emphasis, “food and nutrition insecurity is a gender justice issue”. The facts that women and girls are the most oppressed by “the inequitable global economic processes that govern food systems and by global trends such as climate change”, shows how institutions continue to place women in positions of disadvantage and impoverishment to make money and thrive on capitalizing the food system. When the government withholds food by raising its prices to amounts only privileged people can afford, they both benefit and are able to control the “lower-class”/ marginalized people via the food market. An interesting fact is that “despite rapid economic growth in India, thousands of women and girls still lack food and nutrition security as a direct result of their lower status compared with men and boys”. “Such inequalities are compounded by women and girls’ often limited access to productive resources, education and decision-making, by the ‘normalised’ burden of unpaid work – including care work – and by the endemic problems of gender-based violence (GBV), HIV and AIDS”.
Use of genetically modified (GM) crops
One of the most up-and-coming techniques to ensuring global food security is the use of genetically modified (GM) crops. The genome of these crops can be altered to address one or more aspects of the plant that may be preventing it from being grown in various regions under certain conditions. Many of these alterations can address the challenges that were previously mentioned above, including the water crisis, land degradation, and the ever-changing climate.
In agriculture and animal husbandry, the Green Revolution popularized the use of conventional hybridization to increase yield by creating “high-yielding varieties”. Often the handful of hybridized breeds originated in developed countries and were further hybridized with local varieties in the rest of the developing world to create high yield strains resistant to local climate and diseases.
Opposition to GM crops
Some scientists question the safety of biotechnology as a panacea; agroecologists Miguel Altieri and Peter Rosset have enumerated ten reasons why biotechnology will not ensure food security, protect the environment, or reduce poverty. Reasons include:
There is no relationship between the prevalence of hunger in a given country and its population
Most innovations in agricultural biotechnology have been profit-driven rather than need-driven
Ecological theory predicts that the large-scale landscape homogenization with transgenic crops will exacerbate the ecological problems already associated with monoculture agriculture
And, that much of the needed food can be produced by small farmers located throughout the world using existing agroecological technologies.
Based on evidence from previous attempts, there is a likely lack of transferability of one type of GM crop from one region to another. For example, modified crops that have proven successful in Asia from the Green Revolution have failed when tried in regions of Africa. More research must be done regarding the specific requirements of growing a specific crop in a specific region.
There is also a drastic lack of education given to governments, farmers, and the community about the science behind GM crops, as well as suitable growing practices. In most relief programs, farmers are given seeds with little explanation and little attention is paid to the resources available to them or even laws that prohibit them from distributing produce. Governments are often not advised on the economic and health implications that come with growing GM crops, and are then left to make judgments on their own. Because they have so little information regarding these crops, they usually shy away from allowing them or do not take the time and effort required to regulate their use. Members of the community that will then consume the produce from these crops are also left in the dark about what these modifications mean and are often scared off by their ‘unnatural’ origins. This has resulted in failure to properly grow crops as well as strong opposition to the unknown practices.
Support of GM crops
Many GM crop success stories exist, primarily in developed nations like the USA, China, and various countries in Europe. Common GM crops include cotton, maize, and soybeans, all of which are grown throughout North and South America as well as regions of Asia. Modified cotton crops, for example, have been altered such that they are resistant to pests, can grown in more extreme heat, cold, or drought, and produce longer, stronger fibers to be used in textile production.
The body of scientific evidence concluding that GM foods are safe to eat and do not pose environmental risks is wide. Findings from the International Council of Scientists (2003) that analyzed a selection of approximately 50 science-based reviews concluded that “currently available genetically modified foods are safe to eat,” and “there is no evidence of any deleterious environmental effects having occurred from the trait/species combinations currently available.” The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) supported the same consensus a year later in addition to recommending the extension of biotechnology to the developing world. Similarly, the Royal Society (2003) and British Medical Association (2004) found no adverse health effects of consuming genetically modified foods. These findings supported the conclusions of earlier studies by the European Union Research Directorate, a compendium of 81 scientific studies conducted by more than 400 research teams did not show “any new risks to human health or the environment, beyond the usual uncertainties of conventional plant breeding.” Likewise, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Europe (OECD) and the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (1999) did not find that genetically modified foods posed a health risk.
Source from Wikipedia