Information and stories about food security news.

Entomophagy, or the practice of eating insects, could fight world hunger and global warming. A 200-page report, released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), at the organization’s Rome headquarters, is calling for restaurants, chefs, and food writers to promote eating insects.

According to the FAO, insects provide high-quality protein and nutrients compared to meat and fish. They can also be an important food supplement for undernourished children,  reproduce quickly, and leave a low environment footprint. Insects are high in protein, and can also be rich in copper, iron, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, selenium and zinc. Furthermore, insects are four times more efficient in turning feed mass into edible meat, which suggests that food could be produced more cheaply and with fewer emissions.

The long history of entomophagy starts with grasshoppers served “toasted in a little oil with garlic, lemon and salt” on the streets of Oaxaca, Mexico and fly eggs called “Mexican caviar” that Montezuma devoured. Currently, two billion people worldwide indulge in the delicacy. However, consumer digestion will remain an issue when integrating insects into the Western diet. While ingesting insects outright makes many Westerners squeamish, reports by the FDA suggest that insect fragments can already be found several food products such as wheat and tomato juice but is safe to eat on a small scale.

Though this new protein may not find it’s way onto dinner plates in the near future, eating insects could fight would hunger and is an firm step forward in maintaining food security world wide.

– Kira Maixner

Source: The Telegraph

Effects of Food Aid Reform

Since the proposed changes to the US system of food aid, many have voiced concerns about the shift away from domestic agriculture and towards local food supplies in developing countries. But how will food aid reform affect US shipping and agriculture?

Devex journalist, John Alliage Morales, reports after the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations held May 7, 2013. Shah defended President Obama’s proposal to reform the $1.5 million US Food Aid Program: it would only affect about 300 employees in the shipping industry and 0.2 percent of American agricultural exports.

The six-decade old food aid program was designed primarily to help American farmers by purchasing their surplus, and American shipping companies by requiring at least 75 percent of the goods to be transported to countries in need on U.S.-flagged vessels.

Under Obama’s proposal for fiscal year 2014, the government would still buy food from farmers, but only up to 55 percent of the total, allowing the USAID to source the remaining 45 percent from local or regional markets closer to the crisis areas. USAID estimates that the $1.8-billion new program could reach an additional four million people simply by freeing up money spent on shipping and other costs.

Responding to queries from senators on the reform’s impact to local agriculture, Shah said: “We think the net change would be close to 0.2 percent of total value of U.S. agriculture export.”

“There are other sources of market demand,” added the USAID chief, who stressed that it is “inaccurate” to say that no one will buy the agricultural produce that would no longer be purchased by the government.

Ten years ago, USAID bought and shipped 5.5 million metric tons of food, but today this figure is down to 1.8 million metric tons. In addition, shipping costs have tripled over the same period of time, eating away about 25 percent of the budget, which could have been used to buy more food.

Shah noted that if the reform is approved by Congress, only about eight to ten ships or about 300 employees of the shipping industry will no longer benefit from the food aid program. That accounts for 0.2 percent of the total 15,000 workers in the American maritime shipping sector, he added.

“Of course, we expect that those ships will have other business activities, some of which will come from Department of Defense, some of which will come from elsewhere that they can pursue,” the official said.

– Maria Caluag

Source: Devex
Photo: US News

Forests Contribute to Food Security
A long-standing strategy to strengthen food security by increasing crop production, even if it means destroying forests, has recently come into the debate. Scientists say that the reality of destroying valuable forest ecosystems could have a disastrous effect and may not solve food security and nutrition problems.

“A rampant increase in agricultural production as the global population increases could encroach on nutritional food sources found in forests,” warned Terry Sunderland, a scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Nutritional foods found in forests including rodents, wild birds, and larger animals, as well as fruits, nuts, leaves, stems, and mushrooms are a source of micro-nutrients for many rural communities. Currently, there are 1 billion people in the world that depend on forests for their livelihood. Furthermore, when agricultural production slows and food prices soar, many people living in poverty rely on scavenging tactics and forest-meat to make up for the loss of regularly farmed foods.

According to U.N. data, the global population will rise from 7 billion to more than 9 billion by 2050. Consequentially, this increase will threaten the already high rates of deforestation in tropical regions as well as increasing threats to global health. In a 2011 report presented by PNAS, a 100 to 110 percent increase in global crop demand from 2005 to 2050 would result in the conversion of about 1 billion hectares (2.5 billion acres) of land for agricultural use and is projected to encroach upon forested or heavily treed land.

The current, prevailing view of food security focuses on eliminating global hunger no matter the costs to the natural environment. To protect the natural environment, a balance must be obtained in consideration of current obstacles to the food supply system including waste, overconsumption, post-harvest loss and unequal distribution. Further research will reveal exactly how forests contribute to food security and to the future of nutrition.

– Kira Maixner
Source: TRUST
Photo: NASA

USAID and Syngenta Sign Collaborative Agreement
To continue to advance U.S. efforts to fight hunger, USAID has signed an agreement with global company Syngenta International AG. The agreement will seek to increase food security and reduce hunger in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  The agreement will go to support farmers.  According to USAID, each night, around 870 million people around the world go to bed hungry and Syngenta is joining the fight to reduce those numbers.  Their partnership in the fight will help to increase the adoption of innovative technologies and create mechanisms for crop insurance.

The USAID and Syngenta agreement will allow both groups to reach the impoverished and malnourished across three different continents in joint efforts to end global poverty.  USAID and Syngenta will work together in research and development and capacity building. They will work together and with scientists, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and other donors. This commitment advances the goals set by Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

As previously announced, Syngenta will invest over $500 million in Africa alone to help farmers adopt new technology to increase their yields. With 27,000 employees in 90 countries, Syngenta is truly a global company that is making a global impact. Part of their mission is to bring plant potential to life through science while protecting the environment and improving health and quality of life. Syngenta hopes to ignite change in farm productivity worldwide through the partnership.

Feed the Future is part of this global effort and supports countries as they develop their own agriculture sectors to increase economic growth and trade. In 2012, more than 7 million food producers were helped through Feed the Future. The USAID and Syngenta partnership will continue to grow agricultural development and promote the goals of Feed the Future.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: allAfrica
Photo: USAID

Despite the obvious concerns that genetically modified crops (GMOs) generate in regards to water usage and biodiversity, GMOs are – at present – the only viable option for feeding a worldwide population of 9 billion people by 2050. Why embark upon a policy of greater investment in GMOs as opposed to organic farming? Considering both the land and climate constraints of many developing nations, the strengths of GMOs lie primarily in their ability to adapt to challenges that would otherwise be prohibitive to organically grown crops. The following are 3 ways that GMOs encourage global food security.

1. GMO’s production yields are higher – As the global population increases, greater pressure will be placed on the agricultural industry to produce yields large enough to meet both local and international demands. GMOs encourage global food security by maximizing the potential of long established independent farmers and agribusinesses, a tool considered invaluable for maintaining adequate food supplies in developing countries still lacking the requisite knowledge and infrastructure for conventional farming.

2. GMOs use less land – As land starved countries of the global south continue to experience the high birth rates and greater population density of economic development, the low land usage of GMOs encourage global food security by increasing the productivity of their farmers without stifling growth. GMOs offer emerging economies the distinct advantage of developing previously underutilized areas without the accompanying sacrifices of farmland.

3. GMOs are more affordable – The inevitable cost increases that occur when demand outpaces supply will be an significant issue as the worldwide population increases; however, GMOs encourage global food security by keeping the price of food low enough to feed those with even the most meager of financial resources. GMOs are able to better withstand the climatic, pest, and blight challenges that would otherwise devastate organically grown crops, leading to the supply shortfalls and price increases that cripple poverty stricken communities.

– Brian Turner

Source Science Daily
Photo Chuck Haney Photography

As the world’s aging population continues to increase, global hunger for senior citizens is becoming a concern for international health organizations. In the next forty years, the number of people over the age of 60 will increase from 600 million to 2.4 billion people. The added threat to these aging people is that, not only do they not have access to the necessary amount of food, but they are also often simultaneously suffering from other illnesses. Without food security, the elderly easily become less able to recover from such ailments.

This is not just an issue affecting the developing world. Enid Borden, CEO of the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger, disclosed at the Annual Legislative Breakfast that, in 2010, 8.3 million seniors (14 percent of the population) were living in hunger. That number had drastically increased from 5.2 million people in 2005.

There are certain demographics more likely to be affected by hunger. Lower income senior citizens, racial or ethnic minorities, and seniors in the South and Southwest in the United States are at highest risk. At the breakfast, Borden showed a video that featured an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who often has to choose between paying for medicine or food.

Ms. Borden believes that Americans can fight hunger in their home country as well as around the world. The important thing is to not forget about our aging population and to incorporate methods that specifically help senior citizens. Too often the elderly do not receive the care they need and deserve. As this population increases, it will become ever more vital to develop a solution for global hunger.

– Mary Penn

Source: Toledo Blade
Photo: PBase

Sufficiency, self-reliance, accessibility, utilization and affordability are key principals in providing food security. Policy makers must focus on maintaining a balance in these principals. When demand is not met by supply, the shortfall can lead to unstable food accessibility. 

Self-sufficiency, in many countries, remains the key to continuously providing food security. However, in Indonesia, self-sufficiency has come under threat and the integral agricultural market is at risk. The livelihood of subsistence farmers is increasingly impacted by global issues such as climate change, international food price volatility, and the increasing demand for food from a growing population. The fluctuation and rise in prices of staple foods such as rice, garlic, and onions is leading Indonesia to cooperate with its neighbors to ensure the future of food security nationally and regionally. 

Currently, Indonesia’s food policy is based on the aim of self-sufficiency and production is sustained within the economy to such a level that it could eventually lead to a food crisis. While this encourages small-scale farming, it makes food availability uncertain for many of the nation’s poor and compromises a well-balanced diet. While recent changes in dietary patterns and private-sector investment in agriculture will allow for growth and diversification in agricultural production, it may not be enough. As the country of highest productivity and production of rice in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Indonesia could potentially generate earnings in the regional market. Subsequently, local markets would gain a boost from the benefits of an export-oriented economy. 

Since 1979, East Asian countries have integrated rice reserves to create a formal Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security in 2009 with the end goal being regional food security. While regional food security still has yet to be accomplished, many strides have been made in regional crop risk management, insurance schemes, strategies for regional transportation, and public-private partnerships. Indonesia holds the potential to strengthen self-sufficiency and national food security through aid to domestic competitiveness, systematic cash transfers, and cooperation with non-state stakeholders to minimize the adverse impacts of open food trade regimes. Implementation of these policies and principals would eventually lead to the accomplishment of national and regional food security for Indonesia and East Asia.

– Kira Maixner

Source: The Jakarta Globe
Photo: New Security Beat

Oxfam Raises World Hunger Awareness at Banquet
University of Central Missouri hosted an Oxfam Hunger Banquet to raise money to fight world poverty and hunger. The event raised $9,250, of which $9,000 was in the form of donated Sodexo swipes (student meal plans) and $250 in cash. Other donations included 150 pounds of food to be sent to developing countries.

The 100 students and other city residents who attended the banquet were educated on how to end global hunger through long-term development plans and emergency relief programs. Oxfam also emphasized the importance of implementing fair trade rules, combating global climate change, and standing up for human rights.

The Hunger Banquet emphasized access to food inequalities in the world by randomly assigning attendees to represent people in the world who were food insecure, consumed just enough calories for a healthy diet, or consumed more than the necessary amount of calories. To mimic real-world statistics, 15% of the people could eat a high amount of calories, 35% could consume the basic amount of calories, and 50% of attendees were food insecure.

Those who were given the lowest status had beans, rice, and a glass of water for dinner. The 15% of high-class people were served their dinner on China plates and crystal glass. The juxtaposition of people eating beans next to people consuming a fancy meal added a new outlook on world hunger for those who were present at the banquet.

Another alarming fact that attendees took home with them is that 16,000 children die every day from hunger. To put this in perspective, the town where the event was held, Warrensburg, has a population of 16,304. The Hunger Banquet was a huge success in terms of raising money and donations for the world’s poor and also because the attendees are now more aware of the struggles millions of people face every day. Many students left the banquet ready to take action against global hunger.

– Mary Penn

Source: digital Burg

Flood Resistant Grass Hybrid Can Create Food Security
The effects of flooding are catastrophic to agricultural production and soil efficacy due to the resulting root suffocation – via decreased oxygen availability in the soil – and accompanying topsoil erosion. Furthermore, as global weather patterns change and previously arid areas are exposed to unseasonably high annual rainfall, an increased emphasis is being focused into developing grasses that help to attenuate the impact of flooding. In a breakthrough that’s hypothesized to help bolster global food security in the face of unpredictable weather, a newly discovered flood resistant grass hybrid may shift the advantage towards local farmers.

The newly hybridized Festulolium species of grass, grown by a collaboration between UK researchers from Aberystwyth University, Lancaster University, and University of Nottingham, combines the impressive growth rate of ryegrass with the deep root systems of the meadow fescue grass.

How exactly does the flood resistant grass hybrid help to protect crops? By deploying the Festulolium grass in and around agricultural areas, the quick turnover and absorptive qualities of the hybrid grass help to decrease water run off by more than 51 %. Thus, the sensitive roots of the crops are protected from drowning as the Festulolium grass retains much of the water and serves as a barrier to flooding.

In regards to the newly developed food resistant grass hybrid, James Hutton Institute scientist Kit Macleod noted that, “Hybrid grasses of this type show potential for reducing the likelihood of flood generation, whilst providing pasture for food production under conditions of changing climate.”

Through the development of a flood resistant grass hybrid, a much needed ally in the fight against global climate change as been identified. And thanks to the continued research towards finding innovative methods of flood reduction and water retention, adequate levels of food security will be maintained despite the unpredictable effects of climate change.

– Brian Turner

Source Science Daily
Photo NPR

EU GMOs_opt
Despite understandable concerns in regards to genetically modified (GMOs) foods and the possible long term effects they have on consumers, the ability of GMOs to withstand the catastrophic consequences of pest infestation is unmatched by conventionally farmed crops. Furthermore, as the world population rises and global food demands continue to swell, scientists are becoming more concerned that current EU agriculture production will be inadequate for meeting the demands of the developing world. In an effort to both bolster current crop production and change the narrative concerning GMOs, researchers are claiming that the EU needs genetically modified crops in order to stay competitive in the technologically driven international agricultural industry.

Brought to the forefront of discourse surrounding current EU agricultural policy, scientists from Trends in Plant Science Magazine cited the considerable amount of data showing that although the cultivation of GMOs is banned – or severely limited – in the EU, the region still imports genetically modified crops from countries that have embraced the technology. EU farmers stymied by current laws regarding GMOs are unable to compete with overseas producers, thus requiring the region to import an ever-increasing percentage of their crops. In light of this, researchers are claiming that the EU needs genetically modified crops in order to maintain their own agricultural sustainability and that of their considerable humanitarian obligations abroad.

In regards to the claim that the EU needs genetically modified crops, University of Lleida Agrotecnio Center researcher Paul Christou comments that the EU is being surpassed by other nations because it hasn’t adopted technology which is deemed unpopular. “Ultimately the EU will become almost entirely dependent on the outside world for food and feed and scientific progress,” said Christou.

The issue of identifying realistic solutions to future food security problems is garnering greater and greater attention from academics, agricultural officials, and farmers looking to mitigate the problem while simultaneously bolstering their own market competitiveness and sustainability. Although stating that the EU needs genetically modified crops might upset those uncomfortable with anything but conventionally sourced food, policy changes must be enacted today in order to combat the food security problems of tomorrow. “Realizing this is the only way to achieve sustainable agriculture,” said Christou.

Brian Turner
Source: Science Daily
Photo: Novinite