Tuesday, February 1, 2011

:: Australia and Food Security in a Changing World ::

"Food security is achieved when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life."

(based on the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) 1996 definition)

Food security is an issue for Australia

Australians recognise that food security is a major global issue. The food price crisis of 2008 elevated food security to a high priority on the international policy agenda. While several factors precipitated this crisis, the FAO ominously highlighted the fragility of the global food system as a critical factor. Globally, the number of undernourished people is unacceptably high and stands close to one billion or around 16 per cent of the world population (FAO, 2009). This situation is likely to deteriorate given the projected global population growth to 9.2 billion by 2050, existing and emerging food production constraints, changing consumption patterns and the anticipated impact of climate change.

For Australia, food security is inextricably linked to the political stability of our region and has the potential to affect our national security. Food security also affects our status as a premier food exporting nation and the health and wellbeing of our population. The likelihood of a food crisis directly affecting the Australian population may appear remote given that we have enjoyed cheap, safe and high quality food for many decades and we produce enough food today to feed 60 million people. However, if our population grows to 35-40 million and climate change constrains food production, we can expect to see years where we will import more food than we export. We are now facing a complex array of intersecting challenges which threaten the stability of our food production, consumption and trade. It is imperative that we continue to develop food-related science and technology to fuel a future food revolution that must exceed the achievements of the Green Revolution. Australia is uniquely positioned to help build a resilient food value chain and support programs aimed at addressing existing and emerging food security challenges, such as:

■■ Vulnerability to climate change and climate variability.
■■ Slowing productivity growth in primary industries observed over the last decade.
■■ Increasing land degradation and soil fertility decline coupled with loss of productive land in peri-urban regions due to urban encroachment.
■■ Increasing reliance on imports of food and food production inputs (such as fertilisers) and the susceptibility of these supplies to pressures outside our control.
■■ A finely tuned and ‘just in time’ food transport and distribution system that presents risks of rapid spread of contaminated food and is vulnerable to events such as pandemics.
■■ Poor nutritional intake leading to an increasing burden of diet-related diseases in the population.
■■ Conflict in our region and elsewhere.
An interesting read, from this October 2010 report. I haven't read it all, but I like the Case Study 5 on Page 44, Tasmanian Backyard Gardens. Not so sure about Case Study 6 on GM foods though...