What technologies could sustainably replace pesticides, without compromising on yield or quality? The Global Food Security (GFS) programme’s David O’Gorman reviews a recent GFS workshop on the topic.
What would happen if we could no longer use pesticides? Well, there would be significant yield losses, food price increases, greater food insecurity and potentially political unrest and instability. There may well be reduced ecological impacts, but with loss of yield would come expansion of agricultural land, with release of GHGs and loss of biodiversity.
We are heavily reliant on pesticides to maximise crop yields and put food on our tables. Even with the use of pesticides, a third of food (PDF) produced for human consumption is lost or wasted – what might the figure be with a dramatic increase in pre-harvest losses following reduced pesticide use?
Continue reading How would we cope with a post-pesticide world?
Use of food banks is rising, but so are levels of obesity. Has it become impossible to eat cheaply but well? BBSRC Strategy and Policy Officer Valerie Nadeau tucks in.
Walking down the high street at lunchtime, the smell of baking pastry is enticing. It would be easy to nip into one of the ubiquitous fast food outlets, grab a sausage roll or a pasty for little more than a pound. If I persuade myself to keep walking and track down a salad, it might cost closer to a fiver.
Does this illustrate a more general problem? Is healthy, nutritious food unaffordable?
Protecting the human right to food is more important than ever, argues ESRC researcher Hannah Lambie-Mumford.
In the last few years we have seen the prolific growth of emergency food charity across the UK and sharply rising numbers of people turning to them for help with food. In 2010-2011 just over 61, 000 people received emergency food parcels from the country’s largest network of food banks – the Trussell Trust foodbank Network; in 2013-2014 that number had risen to over 913,000.
Continue reading Why is Britain increasingly reliant on food banks?
The doctrine that food prices should be kept as low as possible to end hunger is wrong, says former FAO agricultural economist Andrew MacMillan.
Most governments prefer to keep food prices “affordable” for their people. Many subsidise their farmers’ incomes to let them make a decent living while they sell their output for little more than it costs them to produce it. Countries justify these measures and relatively low taxes on foods as means of preventing poor people from suffering from hunger.
Continue reading Raising food prices to end hunger
What causes sudden increases in commodity costs, and can we stop them in the future? Theresa Meacham introduces a Global Food Security publication.
‘Banks making millions out of starving millions through food speculation’ was the headline in the Metro following the food price spikes back in 2012. Prior to this, the Telegraph was also asking ‘Should food be a protected commodity?’ following the 2007/08 price spike and 2010 price rises.
But how much can we blame bankers (or food commodity traders) for causing the food price spikes? And will there be more food price spikes in the future?
Continue reading An Insight on food price spikes
We have learnt a lot from the 2007/8 food price spike, but the future will be a bumpy ride says GFS Champion Tim Benton.
The historical era of falling food prices is over. Global demand for food is continuing to increase while production growth has slowed in recent years, leading to significant upward pressure on prices.
It is well recognised that world’s biological and ecological resources (its ’natural capital‘) provides ecosystem services that subsidise production costs: think about how soil fertility, promoted by soil biodiversity, pollination, natural pest control and the climate support agricultural production. Fully investing in sustaining the natural capital, via management of soils, biodiversity, water and carbon emissions would raise food production costs and add to prices.
Continue reading The price is right? Wrong!
Food scarcity remains a fundamental cause of violent outbreaks across the world. Bryce Evans investigates the issue.
The use of food as a strategic weapon is well established. Texts as ancient as the Chinese Art of War and the Roman De Re Militari advocate denying the enemy food. The contemporary conflict in Sudan provides a case in point in the cynical application of this ancient wisdom. There, the government intensifies bombing in rebel areas at harvest time, destroying food. In turn, the country’s rebels seize humanitarian food supplies intended for refugees.
Continue reading Let them eat carbines
Times have changed, and the world’s problems need a global vision for action, says the chair of the EU Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development Paolo de Castro.
The renewed position of food security at recent G8 and G20 Summits, from L’Aquila in 2009 (PDF) to Camp David in 2012, is an acknowledgement that a more sophisticated coordination at global level is needed to meet the new challenges, which are a sort of upside-down scenario in comparison to what prevailed in the last years of the 20th century, when food seemed relatively plentiful.
Continue reading The politics of food in the new scarcity
New insights are needed for an age-old problem, says Sara Kirk.
A recent survey (PDF) undertaken for the Global Food Security programme has revealed that more than half the UK population felt that ‘food security is not an issue that affects me, rather it’s more a problem for people in developing countries’.
This finding is notable when considered in the light of comments by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier de Schutter, who condemned Canada over what he saw as unacceptable rates of food insecurity in that country, where one in ten families with a child under six is unable to meet their daily food (PDF) needs.
Continue reading Food insecurity and nutrition