A Sustainability Challenge: Food Security
Report of Two Workshops
Committe on Food Security for All as a Sustainability Challenge
Science and Technology for Sustainability Program
Policy and Global Affairs
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance.
This report and the workshops on which it was based were supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the George and Cynthia Mitchell Endowment for Sustainability Science. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
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COMMITTEE ON FOOD SECURITY FOR ALL AS A SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGE
Per Pinstrup-Andersen (Chair), H. E. Babcock Professor of Food, Nutrition and Public Policy, J. Thomas Clark Professor of Entrepreneurship, and Professor of Applied Economics, Cornell University
Mike Bushell, Principal Scientific Adviser, Syngenta, Jealott’s Hill International Research Center
Jason Clay, Senior Vice President, Market Transformation, World Wildlife Fund
Bert Drake, Plant Physiologist, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (retired)
William (Bill) Jury, Distinguished Professor, Soil Physics and Soil Physicist, Emeritus, University of California, Riverside
Philip Pardey, Professor of Science and Technology Policy, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota
Jules Pretty, Professor of Environment and Society and Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Essex
Marie Ruel, Director, Poverty, Health, and Nutrition Division, International Food Policy Research Institute
Emmy B. Simmons, Former Assistant Administrator for Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade, U.S. Agency for International Development (retired)
Kostas Stamoulis, Director, Agricultural Development Economics Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Dennis Treacy, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer, Smithfield Food, Inc.
Laurian Unnevehr, Director, Food Economics Division, Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Paul Vlek, Professor and Director, Department of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Center for Development Research, University of Bonn
Marina Moses, Director, Science and Technology for Sustainability Program
Pat Koshel, Senior Program Officer, Science and Technology for Sustainability Program
Emi Kameyama, Program Associate, Science and Technology for Sustainability Program
Jennifer Saunders, Program Officer, Science and Technology for Sustainability Program
Dylan Richmond, Research Assistant, Science and Technology for Sustainability Program
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PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
To follow up on discussions held by the National Research Council’s Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability, an ad hoc committee of experts was appointed to organize two workshops to address the sustainability challenges associated with providing food security for all. The first workshop, Measuring Food Insecurity and Assessing the Sustainability of Global Food Systems, examined the empirical basis for past trends, the current situation, and projections for the future. The second workshop, Exploring Sustainable Solutions for Increasing Global Food Supplies, explored a set of issues fundamental to assuring that food supplies can be increased to meet the needs of the world’s growing population—now expected to reach over 9 billion by 2050.
The issues addressed during the workshops were timely, as food security and agricultural development have become priority topics for the international leaders meeting regularly at the Group of Twenty (G-20) as well as critical elements in the United Nations climate change negotiations launched in Copenhagen in 2009. In February 2011, the committee hosted the first workshop to review commonly used indicators for food security and malnutrition, poverty, and natural resources and agricultural productivity. The overarching objective of the first workshop was to contribute to the global effort towards sustainable food security through the improvement of indicators used to assess and monitor progress. The workshop offered an opportunity for dialogue among a small group of experts, including those responsible for key indicators of food security, key critics of those metrics, end users, and planning committee members. The workshop also sought to analyze methodological strengths and weaknesses and to discuss priorities for improving our understanding of the dimensions (quantitative, qualitative, and geographical) of the issues.
The second workshop, held in May 2011, was designed to identify the major challenges and opportunities for change associated with achieving sustainable food security and identifying needed policy, science, and governance interventions. Estimates made by the United Nations predict that the world population will increase to 9.3 billion by 20501 and 70 percent more food will be required, posing a global sustainability challenge. While sustainable food security for all depends both on food supplies and assuring access to food, the second workshop focused specifically on assuring the availability of adequate food supplies. Workshop participants were asked to examine long term natural resource constraints, specifically water, land and forests, soils, biodiversity and fisheries. They also discussed the role of knowledge, technology, modern production practices, and infrastructure in supporting expanded agricultural production and the significant risks to future productivity due to changes in the climate.
This report has been prepared by the committee as a factual summary of what occurred at the workshops, and the statements made do not necessarily represent positions of the workshops’
1 New UN population estimates (for 2010) were released just at the time of our workshop. These new estimates suggested that by the end of the century the global population could reach 10.1 billion and 9.3 billion by 2050. See World Population Prospects 2010. Available at http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Other-Information/Press_Release_WPP2010.pdf. Accessed on October 1, 2011.
participants as a whole, the Science and Technology for Sustainability Program, or the National Academies.
The workshops and report could not have come together without the help of many dedicated staff members. Pat Koshel and Emi Kameyama directed the project and coordinated the report. Marina Moses provided oversight. Jennifer Saunders and Dylan Richmond provided invaluable support and assistance with our two workshops and in preparing the final report.
This report is the result of substantial effort and collaboration among several organizations and individuals. We wish to extend a sincere thanks to each member of the planning committee for his/her contributions in scoping, developing, and carrying out this project.
The project was made possible by financial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It also benefitted from the National Academies’ internal support, provided by the George and Cynthia Mitchell Endowment for Sustainability Science.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Academies’ Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for quality and objectivity. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process.
I wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Chris Barrett, Cornell University; Yurie Tanimichi Hoberg, The World Bank; Daniel Maxwell, Tufts University; Lynnette Neufeld, Micronutrient Initiative; and Sanjay Reddy, The New School for Social Research for Part I of the report; and William Easterling, The Pennsylvania State University; Keith Fuglie, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Brian Greenberg, InterAction; George Hornberger, Vanderbilt University; Rattan Lal, The Ohio State University; and Sara Scherr, EcoAgriculture Partners for Part II of the report.
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the content of the report, nor did they see the final draft before its release. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authors and the institution.
Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Chair
Committee on a Study of
Food Security for All as
A Sustainability Challenge