4. Future health and food security and sustainability

Syllabus link:  Possible solutions to food insecurity, including waste reduction.

Possible solutions to food security

There are a range of possibilities in order to reduce food security.

Short term measures:

Food aid:  the WFP already reaches millions suffering from natural disasters, people in need such as refugees.  However, there are still millions suffering from chronic hunger around the world (see below).

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Increase food production:  this would mean reducing set aside policies (taking land out of production for a given period of time.  Higher market price also encourage production.

Access to seeds (better seeds) and fertilisers:  many rural farmers in LICs are unable to cover the cost of inputs such as seeds and fertilisers.  Helping the rural poor to access seeds and fertilisers means they can plant for needs seasons crops, which is a start to ending the food crisis many face.

Export bans:  Many LICs are forced or encouraged to export crops in order to repay debt, hence they are not sold on the domestic market. The reduces the supply increasing prices domestically.

Medium-term measures:

Free trade:  This includes making trade fair and reducing farm subsidies in the USA andUndoing some of the protectionist policies under the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP).  Unfortunately, trade liberalisation has not been fair with exported subsidised food being exported to local markets.  However, this could mean many developing nations try and export to developed nations resulting in a shortage domestically – hence prices rise.

Biofuels:  A reduction in land used for biofuel.  Diverting maize results in a shortage and increases the price.

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Long-term measures:

Agricultural investment:  With the right help it is believed Africa could increase its yields. Many crops are lost as farmers struggle to get their produce to the markets on time.  Investing in roads, storage, access to fertilisers, improved irrigation would improve the situation.

GM crops: Not all crops are suitable for Africa. Many GM crops have been concentrated on the Northern Hemisphere (some Asia).

Sustainability:  Rethinking our lifestyles as the current situation isn’t sustainable.

Syllabus link:  One case study of attempts to tackle food insecurity.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh-Agriculture-A-Key-Driver-in-Reducing-Poverty-Must-Diversify-INFOGRAPHIC

Bangladesh a growing economy through advances in agriculture

More than 70 percent of Bangladesh’s population and 77 percent of its workforce lives in rural areas. Nearly half of all of Bangladesh’s workers and two-thirds in rural areas are directly employed by agriculture, and about 87 percent of rural households rely on agriculture for at least part of their income.

Bangladesh has made very good progress in recent decades in achieving food security, despite land scarcity, frequent natural disasters and population growth (food grain production, for example, tripled between 1972 and 2014, from 9.8 to 34.4 million tons).

With one of the fastest rates of productivity growth in the world since 1995 (averaging 2.7 percent per year, second only to China), Bangladesh’s agricultural sector has benefited from a sound and consistent policy framework backed up by substantial public investments in technology, rural infrastructure and human capital (additional training for farmers).

Huge progress was made in improving the production of rice through irrigation of water and high yield varieties. However, with the increased focus on rice this has meant the government has had to import other foods.

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Infrastructure has been a key development.  The government has invested in storage facilities for rice, as well as cold storage for meat, fish, eggs and other perishable food such as potatoes.

Transport infrastructure has improved in order to get food to markets and improve distribution.  This includes the distribution of imported food to those living in rural areas.

As a result of this investment Bangladesh is now self sufficient in meat, fish, rice, potatoes and vegetables.  It is less self-sufficient in wheat, sugar and pulses (legumes).

As a result food insecurity since the 1970s has declined immensely.  However, 50 million people are still said to be food insecure, many of these are vulnerable to the monsoon floods and reside in urban areas.

Syllabus:  Food waste

Global food waste could rise by a third in 2030

Sub-saharan Africa problems with transportation, mould and insects 

2.5 kgs per week of food waste per household in Singapore, 2017

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Consumerism in HICs associated with high incomes and high levels of marketing has resulted in huge food waste.  Nearly 870 million people in the world are undernourished, but at the same time, approximately one-third of the global food total supply ends up spoiled, thrown out, or wasted. That’s about 1.6 billion tons of edible material overall, and projected to reach 2.1 billion tons by 2030. Plus, there are hidden costs like the greenhouse gasses that come from rotten food, which continue to be a large contributor to global warming.

It is estimate ⅓ of food in the UK is thrown away each year.  In 2017, in Singapore it was estimated 2.5 kgs a week was wasted (thrown away from the average home).  LICs on the other hand waste food due to different reasons. It is estimated up to 80% is wasted (spoilt) before reaching the shops and markets. Improving transportation and storage could reduce this.

However, most food is wasted through retail (where produce is not deemed good enough for the shelf, not large enough, doesn’t look right, or has expired) and consumer behaviour (overall most of the food waste takes place at the consumer stage).  

Overall, wastage for fruit and vegetables is higher than grain due to its perishable nature.

In the UK a recent study showed that of potato crops 46 percent does not make it to the retail market.

-6% is lost in the field

-12% is removed through sorting

-5% lost in storage

-22% is rejected once cleaned.

In LICs waste can be attributed to the lack of storage facilities and transportation (due to poor infrastructure, as well as a lack of refrigerated transportation) on the way to markets. In addition inadequate harvesting and storage in undesirable conditions often leads to crops being destroyed or degraded.  This could be through mould or pests such as rodents. Poor roads and poorly maintained trucks often see fresh produce spill and become bruised, attributing to food loss.

In India 40% of the fruit and vegetables are lost between the grower and consumer due to a lack of refrigerated transport, poor roads and weather.

Syllabus link:  Advantages and disadvantages of contemporary approaches to food production, including genetically modified organisms (GMOs), vertical farming and in vitro meat.

Vertical farming

By 2050 the population is expected to be over 9 million people, food production is expected to increase by 50%.  Advocates of vertical farming see this as one way to achieve this.

Vertical farming is the practice of growing produce in vertically stacked layers in urban areas. The practice often involves using hydroponic or aeroponic growing methods.

Most vertical farms use enclosed structures similar to greenhouses that stack vertically, either directly above each other or staggered for better natural light exposure (however most uses LED lighting).   If farmers are careful enough no insects or pests should get into the farms.

Vertical farming typically uses a mix of natural light and artificial light. Artificial lighting is often LED-based and may be driven by a renewable source such as solar or wind turbines (not always the case).  Control software often rotates racks of plants so each receives the same amount of light.

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Vertical farming in Singapore

In vitro meat

Also known as cultured and synthetic meat.

Meat is grown from an animal cell culture instead of from slaughtered animals.

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GMOs – Genetically Modified Organisms

Genetic engineering involves adding traits to a plant to make it more nutritious or resistant to disease or pests (some are HYVs=high yield varieties).

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