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Suggested Citation:"1 INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW." National Research Council. 2011. Exploring Sustainable Solutions for Increasing Global Food Supplies: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13319.
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Suggested Citation:"1 INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW." National Research Council. 2011. Exploring Sustainable Solutions for Increasing Global Food Supplies: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13319.
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Page 2
Suggested Citation:"1 INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW." National Research Council. 2011. Exploring Sustainable Solutions for Increasing Global Food Supplies: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13319.
×
Page 3
Suggested Citation:"1 INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW." National Research Council. 2011. Exploring Sustainable Solutions for Increasing Global Food Supplies: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13319.
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Page 4

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PREPUBLICATION COPY: UNCORRECTED PROOF 1 INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW The National Research Council’s Science and Technology for Sustainability Program convened the second of two workshops addressing the sustainability challenges associated with food security for all on May 2-4 in the Venable LLC Conference Center, Washington, DC. The second workshop was titled “Exploring Sustainable Solutions for Increasing Global Food Supplies.” Individual and household food security depends on access to the food needed to meet food and nutritional needs, a condition strongly related to household income. Food availability is necessary, but not sufficient, for achieving food security. However, availability of sufficient food for current and future generations is critical and must be based on sustainable methods of production and distribution, that is, using available resources in such a way that their availability for production and distribution in the future is not compromised or precluded. Recent and current debate surrounding recent food price volatility and the impact of climate change on the future food supplies makes the topic very timely and important. Organized by a committee of experts appointed by the National Research Council, the second workshop involved a diverse set of participants: researchers, analysts, academics, and development leaders in a wide range of fields--food production, resource management, environmental conservation, climate, and others. While keeping in mind the critical importance of access to food, this workshop focused on the question of sustainable food availability and the related natural resource constraints and policies. The overall objective was to identify (i) the major barriers to expanding food production to meet future food demand without damaging the future productive capacity and (ii) policy, technology and governance interventions that could reduce these barriers and promote sustainable food availability as a basic pillar of sustainable food security. WORKSHOP STRUCTURE This workshop was built on the discussions at the first workshop held in February 2011, in which expert participants explored the availability and quality of metrics that helped us understand the concept of “sustainable food security.” On the theory that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” consideration during the first workshop was given to the metrics of: poverty, undernutrition or “hunger,” malnutrition, farm productivity, natural resource productivity (land, water, soil quality, etc.), and food supply chain efficiencies and losses. It was clear that there were different ways of understanding and measuring these concepts and relating them to each other (e.g., household poverty and children’s heights) in meaningful ways. The use of different geographic scales was particularly striking, as relevant data on production and productivity, for example, related variously to households, fields, farm, landscapes, river basins, nations, regions, or continents. By being “spatially explicit,” it was believed that data and information relevant at smaller scales could also be meaningfully aggregated to meso- and macro-scales. Overall, however, experts in workshop one stated: 1

PREPUBLICATION COPY: UNCORRECTED PROOF The quality of metrics is not as good as it needs to be for accurately understanding, monitoring, or predicting food security and the sustainability of food production processes given natural resource conditions, policies, and market incentives. Suites of metrics/indicators are needed to understand the phenomena associated with sustainable food security (both availability of food and access of poor populations to it), although even existing suites of metrics are rarely integrated adequately for decision makers today. There are few integrated sets of relevant data that are widely accessible and that allow analysts to work at sufficiently broad scales as well as at more local (including household) scales. The first day of the second workshop opened with a recap of some ideas presented at workshop one, reflecting the availability and quality of data indicators and projections of both poverty/food security and resource use trends as they are currently understood, while also framing the potential of various factors to pose new opportunities, risks and vulnerabilities that would affect trends going forward. These presentations enabled participants at workshop two to see what the existing evidence tells us regarding the magnitude of the problems and challenges and opportunities for their solutions. Subsequent sessions on day one of workshop two dug more deeply into the trends associated with natural resources that are believed to pose hard constraints to food supply and availability. The second day of this second workshop explored several of the policy, market, and governance approaches currently thought to be needed to resolve the constraints posed by natural resources to food availability at various scales: global, regional, and local. The third day engaged participants in consideration of what changes (in public policy and regulatory institutions, markets and other economic institutions dominated by the private sector, and social and cultural institutions) would be needed to raise the probabilities for ensuring that food availabilities in 2050 respond to global food demands and the nutritional needs of more than 9 billion people. The organizers of the workshop recognize that the content of the workshop and this summary report leave out many important topics and perspectives associated with sustainable food supplies and the related natural resource constraints and policies. However, the time constraints of a two and a half day workshop forced the planning committee to limit the number of topics that could usefully be examined. One important topic that the workshop was to have addressed was the complex links between energy and agricultural productivity. However, due to unforeseen circumstances the speaker for this session was unable to attend the workshop. In addition, most participants focused on the production of the three dominant staple crops rather than a broader range of food crops. Hopefully, the energy-agriculture nexus as well as other important topics that are not included can be examined in other workshops or future meetings. ORGANIZATION OF THE REPORT This report, like the other report included in this volume, is limited in scope to the presentations, workshop discussions and background documents distributed to the participants in preparation for the workshop. The report does not necessarily reflect the views of the committee or the participants as a group. This chapter includes a summary of the presentation by the committee chair, Per Pinstrup-Andersen, providing a contextual framework for the workshop. 2

PREPUBLICATION COPY: UNCORRECTED PROOF Chapter 2 includes summaries of a set of presentations examining the challenges in and opportunities for achieving sustainable food security, including an overview of current and expected future food and nutrition security. It also includes descriptions of key natural resource constraints and the role of climate change. Chapter 3 summarizes various approaches to achieving sustainable food supplies, including sustainable intensification, reducing yield gaps, addressing waste in the food chain, and the role of global public goods. Chapter 4 focuses on the political, economic, and institutional opportunities and barriers, and the final chapter discusses options for moving forward. CONTEXTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR WORKSHOP 22 Per Pinstrup-Andersen opened the meeting by asking a set of questions: Can the world feed future generations? Can it do so sustainably? At what food price? At what price volatility? Will everybody have access? What action is needed? Action by whom? Pinstrup-Andersen answered the first two questions by saying that the world can feed future generations and--with appropriate action--can do it sustainably. This meeting will focus on sustainable food supplies, which is just one part of the food security equation (Figure 1-1). He noted that adequate food supplies are necessary but not sufficient for assuring food security for all. Who will have access to food depends on many factors including prices and incomes. Furthermore, household behavior, intra-household decision making processes and gender- specific time allocation are important components of the access issue that will not be considered in this supply-focused workshop. In addition, there are several non-food factors that influence food security, such as health, access to clean drinking water and good sanitation. 2 The presentation is available at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/PGA/sustainability/foodsecurity/PGA_062564, presentation by Pinstrup-Andersen (May 2, 2011). 3

PREPUBLICATION COPY: UNCORRECTED PROOF FIGURE 1-1 The workshop focus. SOURCE: Presentation by Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Cornell University, May 2, 2011. The workshop will focus on three elements critical to assuring long term sustainable food supplies: 1) barriers to sustainable food supplies, 2) approaches and action, and 3) incentives and limitations to action. Among the major barriers to sustainable food supplies are natural resource constraints--water, land, forest, soil, biodiversity and energy—and human-made resources-- knowledge, technology, and infrastructure--as well as climate change. The discussion on approaches and action will include examining R&D to reduce yield gaps and raise yield ceiling, farm level intensification and ecosystem management. Speakers will also discuss ways to improve value chains, reduce wastes and losses, and improve energy efficiency and enhance private investments in land. The final workshop segments will examine some of the incentives and limitations to action, looking at the specific roles of the public sector, the private sector and civil society. For example, what kind of public goods need to be in place for the private sector to operate? The intent of the workshop is not to answer all the questions noted above but to provide input to the debate about what the answers are. Per Pinstrup-Andersen noted that the debate about food security currently tends to the extremes with arguments such as “The world is running out of food,” “Billions of people will starve to death,” “We are losing our most critical natural resources,” etc. This workshop should aim to provide evidence to enlighten the debate and support evidence-based decision making. 4

Next: 2 ACHIEVING SUSTAINABLE FOOD SECURITY: CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES »
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Exploring Sustainable Solutions for Increasing Global Food Supplies summarizes the second of two National Research Council workshops, addressing the sustainability challenges associated with food security for all. The workshop was held in May 2011. While sustainable food security depends both on the availability of food supplies and assuring access to food, this workshop focused specifically on assuring the availability of adequate food supplies. How can food production be increased to meet the needs of a population expected to reach over 9 billion by 2050? Workshop objectives included identifying the major challenges and opportunities associated with achieving sustainable food security and identifying needed policy, science, and governance interventions. Workshop participants discussed long term natural resource constraints, specifically water, land and forests, soils, biodiversity and fisheries. They also examined the role of knowledge, technology, modern production practices, and infrastructure in supporting expanded agricultural production and the significant risks to future productivity posed by climate change.

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