Issues Magazine

Articles about food security

The Blue Revolution

By Colin Chartres

Water scarcity is going to be one of the critical limitations on agricultural production and our ability to feed the growing world population. However, the overall productivity of water use can be increased to help cope with increasing food demand.

For the majority of people growing up in developed countries, the issue of food security never arises. Australia, for example, has a relatively small population and in spite of droughts is an exporter of food.

However, elsewhere in developing countries, more than one billion people live in poverty (incomes less than about US$1.25 per day) and are often malnourished. Although this figure is unacceptable, it is arguable that one billion people might have died of starvation were it not for the Green Revolution of the 1960–70s.

Forests and Food: Harvesting the Low-Hanging Fruit

By Frances Seymour

Forests have an important role in ensuring food security for hundreds of millions of rural households and the global community. The goods and services that forests contribute to human nutrition and agricultural sustainability deserve greater recognition in the food security debate.

More than a billion of the world’s poorest people depend on forests for some portion of their daily subsistence and livelihood. Foods gathered from the forest provide an important source of nutrition, while sale of forest products provides a source of cash income with which to buy food.

How Microbes Can Help Feed the World

By Ann Reid & Shannon E. Greene

Understanding the partnerships between microbes and plants could help to solve the global food crisis.

Feeding a global population projected to reach nine billion people by 2050 is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. Gains from the Green Revolution have levelled off, there is a limited supply of arable land and clean water, and inputs like fertilisers and pesticides are both economically and environmentally costly. Intensifying current agricultural approaches is simply not a sustainable solution to the problem of food security; new approaches are desperately needed.

Improving Agriculture with Zero Tillage Cropping Systems in Iraq

By Colin Piggin

Australia has been involved in the rehabilitation of agriculture after wars and natural disasters in countries such as Cambodia, East Timor and Afghanistan. The impact of these efforts, such as those underway in Iraq, has been quite astounding, and often includes unforeseen benefits.

Part of the Fertile Crescent, birthplace of settled agriculture some 10,000 years ago, Iraq has a deep but turbulent history. Straddling ancient trade routes, it has witnessed waves of invaders from the Persians to the Ottomans, finally gaining formal independence from Britain in 1932. However, ongoing violence and insecurity, destruction of infrastructure, a bureaucracy unable to function properly and international isolation have devastated the country.

From Bread Basket to Food Deficit

Hidden Hunger: Food Security Means Balanced Diets

By Dyno Keatinge and Warwick Easdown

Vegetables are often overlooked in the global debate on hunger. What solutions can they bring to the current food crisis?

Food security is fundamentally about securing a balanced diet, and most diets in the world today are imbalanced due to inadequate consumption of vegetables. Recent price increases for staple crops, which form the bulk of the diets of the world’s poor, have hit millions of people very hard, but many of their diets were already of low quality well before this recent “food crisis”.

Can We Feed a Growing World and Sustain the Planet?

By Jonathan Foley

Increasing population and consumption are placing unprecedented demands on agriculture and natural resources across the planet, but five strategies might just let us attain a food-secure and environmentally-secure world by the middle of the century.

The scramble for natural resources reflects the fact that agriculture is going to be absolutely fundamental to the success of our civilisation. It has been so for 10,000 years, and it must continue to be so for the next 10,000 years, because one of the big challenges for the world is food security.

The 2009 Global Hunger Index: More Attention to Women’s Role Needed

By Joachim von Braun

Recent world events have hit developing countries hard. Improving opportunities for women, especially with regard to education, could significantly reduce hunger and malnutrition.

Fish: The Way of the Future?

By Meryl J. Williams

The seas, ponds, lakes and rivers play an important role in feeding the world. Meryl Williams explores how fish are produced and some of the interesting challenges facing fish production.

Most of us buy our fish from a shop, supermarket or restaurant. We rarely think about how it was produced, and less about the amazing developments that led to farmers and fishers being able to grow or catch it.

The End of Hunger?

By Glenn Denning

Through benign neglect of agriculture, the planet is fast running out of food. The G8 and G20 have pledged to increase funding to smallholder agriculture, but is the end of hunger an attainable goal?

One billion people on the planet are hungry. More than one-quarter of children in poor countries are underweight for their age or height. According to a paper published in the Lancet in 2008 by Robert Black of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD (www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(07)61690-0/abstract#), malnutrition is implicated in 35% of the estimated 10 million preventable deaths of children under five each year in developing countries.

Growing More Food Beats Hunger and Boosts Incomes

By Nick Austin

On Australia’s doorstep, where millions of people face hunger on a daily basis, Australia is helping smallholder farmers to boost production and improving people’s prosperity.

The price peaks of the 2008 global food crisis have slowed, but those worst affected still struggle to find enough to eat each day. The global recession only makes that task harder.

The world’s poor people, living on less than US$1 per day, typically spend 70–80% of their costs of living on food. That food is often basic, low in nutritional value and insufficient to meet recommended daily intakes. By comparison, Australians, and others in the west spend around 15% of household costs on food, and we have enough choice to meet, or exceed, the recommended daily intake.

Livestock, Food and Climate Change

By Carlos Seré

The 800 million livestock keepers of the developing world are among those communities at greatest risk of climate change. They need technological and policy support to produce the greater amounts of milk, meat and eggs needed to feed the world – and to do so more efficiently with less environmental cost.

Agriculture, on which we all depend for our food, is under threat from climate change. There is no doubt that systems worldwide will have to adapt, but while consumers may barely notice in developed countries, millions of people in developing countries face a very real and direct threat to their food security and livelihoods.

Increased modernisation fuels new global nutrition issue

By Surinder Baines

Food security is an issue for developed countries too, with one in seven American households experiencing food insecurity at some time each year.

World Food Day honours the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in 1945. Many countries observe World Food Day to raise awareness about food related issues and to highlight areas for future action. This year’s theme “Sustainable Food Systems for Food Security and Nutrition” highlights the issues surrounding levels of global food production and availability.

Food for All: What Australia Can Do

By Denis Blight

The world food crisis is here to stay, or to recur, as long as demand for food outstrips supply. Demand will grow as a growing population looks to eat better and more nutritious food. Will productivity growth in the next 50 years meet growing demand?

Consider Populasia, an emerging economy in Asia with a rapidly growing population.Increasing numbers of people means that the people of Populasia need more food just to ensure a basic level of nutrition, but bigger numbers of wealthier people want better and more nutritious diets, increasing demand not only for cereals but also for meat, milk and other dairy products, and for fresh fruit, vegetables and fish as well as for so-called luxuries such as wine.

Feeding the World with Grains

By Tony Fischer

The yield of grains, the source of much of the world’s food, has risen to exceed world population growth in the past 50 years, resulting in cheaper food for the world’s poor. Can this continue over the next 50 years as world population rises to just over nine billion?

Humanity has done well to increase grain production to match population growth. Until the middle of the last century, most of this growth came from opening up more arable land. Since the 1960s, however, the area of arable land has remained relatively steady while grain yields (the amount produced per unit area) have increased substantially.

Biodiversity Conservation and Food Security

By Tony Gregson

Agricultural biodiversity is often seen simply as a source of interesting traits to improve crops and livestock. However, it can deliver far more than that if given the opportunities.

The United Nations has declared that 2010 will be the International Year of Biodiversity. The UN has three overarching goals for the year:

  • to increase awareness of the importance of biodiversity for our well-being;
  • to halt the loss of biodiversity, which is currently up to 100 times greater than the natural rate of extinction; and
  • to celebrate success stories.

Guest Editorial

By Cathy Reade

Coordinator of Public Awareness, Crawford Fund

An overview of what's in this edition of Issues.

While the world has achieved some truly great advancements in agricultural development to provide “food for all”, you will read in this edition of Issues that worldwide progress in reducing hunger remains slow and there are pockets of significant long term-chronic hunger in the world, including very close to home.