The term 'food security', is one that is heard more and more these days...on the radio, TV and in magazines and newspapers. But what does it mean?
- Food security exists when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. (World Health Organisation)
The WHO goes onto outline the 'three pillars' of food security which are:
- having sufficient food for good health,
- possessing the means to obtain it,
- and knowledge about how to use it along with adequate water and sanitation.
So it isn't just about not having enough food like the Sub-Saharan Africans at the moment. The growing numbers of obese people and the huge amounts of wasted food in the developed world are also a symptoms of poor food security.
Some other things to think about in relation to our food security:
Political and economic factors (including globalisation):
- Capitalism - a dynamic economic systems that demands constant growth and expansion.
- The power of corporations - in their own right and the influence they have over governments.
- Ridiculous political arguments which relate more to staying in power (or getting into power) than solving any real issues.
- Currently millions of Africans are starving... 'due to drought'. Yet people living in parts of China with similar climactic conditions manage to feed themselves. Historical factors and lack of good governance has failed to help African farmers to manage their land to ameliorate the effects of climate.
- The power of the media- In Australia almost all of the media is owned by two families...the Packers and the Murdochs. This does not create a climate for intelligent debate.
- The ownership and patenting of various genomes (including ours) by commercial enterprises.
- In Australia, the almost duopoly of the two big supermarkets who control prices and whose influence extends past the farm gate and into the paddock.
- Farms have been amalgamated and are big business.
- Treating food as a tradeable commodity rather than as a basic human right.
- Unequal trade agreements where subsidised farmers in some countries flood the market in other countries with their exports. In Australia, for instance, we have pulled up most of our commercial citrus orchards because the growers couldn't compete with the cost of imported fruit. And...two thirds of agricultural produce in Australia is exported, according to the Bureau of Statistics. Now tell me that makes sense.
- Some of Australia's best farmland has been purchased by the Chinese government and other overseas interests. I think we are the only country that has allowed this to happen.
- Almost all of Australia's iconic food brands are now owned by overseas companies...yes, even Vegemite and, more recently, Fosters!
- The carbon footprint of food - the huge amount of energy required to grow, transport, and market basic items makes them very expensive in an environmental sense.
- Marginal farmland becoming degraded and losing its ability to grow food. It is estimated that 24 percent has gone this way in the last 24 years.
- Urbanisation. All over the world, ever expanding cities are impinging on adjacent farmland.
- The average size of the traditional Australian suburban block has declined at the same time that houses are becoming bigger and bigger. There is no room to even grow a few veggies. The new 'McMansion Estates' may have a pretty lake and a playground but no common ground set aside to grow food.
- In Australia, fertile farmland is becoming an increasingly common target for mineral and gas exploration too. Just Google, coal seam gas in the Darling Downs, if you don't believe me. In Victoria, around the Bacchus Marsh district (a place with deep, fertile, volcanic top soil and home to orchards and market gardens) drilling rigs have been set up...just looking at this stage.
- Monoculture is still rampant, even though we have known the dangers of it for decades.
- Climate change. In Australia, rainfall is declining in much of rural and regional Australia.
- Peak Oil Production - we are going to run out of cheap fossil fuels sooner rather than later.
- The unknown effects of genetically engineered crops and loss of the old species.
- Loss of the 'family farm'. The average age of farmers in Australia continues to rise while the actual numbers of farmers is falling.
- Consumerism - or 'The I've gotta have one of those!' syndrome that makes us want the latest gadget to feel whole, while ignoring the basic rights of others in the world who are without food.
Are you depressed yet?
Come back next Sunday
for the good news.