The growing global food crisis

| July 4, 2020

The global food system is headed for failure, with potentially catastrophic consequences for all people, nations and for civilisation as a whole, a new report warns.

The Commission for the Human Future’s second Round Table Conference on global threats and solutions has called for a worldwide effort to transform global food production to a system that is renewable, healthy and fair to all.

The Commission’s report comes as the United Nations warns that world food supplies are failing and the Covid19 pandemic is making matters worse.

Commission chairman Professor John Hewson AM said “We must all eat, every day, to survive and thrive. That demands more than 8 trillion meals a year. However, our second Round Table concludes that the future of food cannot be taken for granted.”

Fracturing of industrial food chains is already evident in the Covid19 pandemic, diet-related disease has become the greatest killer of our age and, in the medium term, the food supply is imperilled by scarcities of soil, water and nutrients, genetic narrowing and climatic instability, the Commission’s report says.

“Global action to remedy these risks is far from what is required,” it warns. “There is currently a worldwide focus on renewable energy to power the human future: the focus on renewable food is negligible. This has to change. The two go hand-in-hand.”

The report outlines a range of growing threats to food security, from resource scarcity, climate change, the failure of agro-ecosystems and a commodified industrial food system designed for profit, not to nourish humanity.

“No country, region, community or person on Earth will be immune from the effects of climate-driven food price instability, mass migration and the conflicts this may cause.

“Malnutrition – including over-nutrition (2 billion people), under-nutrition (1 billion people) and micronutrient deficiencies (2 billion) – now affects more than half of the human population. It is the ‘new normal’ in nearly all countries and societies,” the report adds.

In its second part, the report outlines solutions and ways to build a renewable world food system. These include growing far more food in cities and the deep oceans and converting extractive farming to regenerative agriculture.

In particular, it urges the adoption of ‘circular food economies’ where key resources such as water and nutrients are continually recycled, and not wasted as at present.

It urges the empowerment of consumers through a flow of trustworthy information about food, how it is produced and its health benefits, reaching every level of society in every country.

It calls for communities and governments in Australia and worldwide, to adopt far stronger food policies, and to start viewing food as a key element of national security.

The study also warns that, if humanity is to continue to have enough food, action must be taken to flatten the human population growth curve.

“Our greatest enemy is complacency – the lazy belief that because there is food in the shops today, it will always be there tomorrow.” Prof Hewson cautioned. “This view has coloured the attitudes of governments, corporations and consumers alike. It has bred inaction, lack of interest, lack of vision, lack of research, lack of the will to change.

“Our report is a call for action by everyone – farmers, consumers, industry, governments, communities, indigenous people, scientists, cooks and investors – to join in building a healthy, renewable food industry for the future. We want to stir discussion, debate, ideas and a worldwide movement to transform food.”

“Food involves everyone personally, not just governments or corporations. Reshaping our food supply, both here in Australia and internationally, offers an unparalleled opportunity to reshape our world. It is also an opportunity for humanity to unite around something we can all agree on: our need to eat, safely, healthily and renewably, every single day.”

The Commission will shortly release a second report from the Roundtable discussion, focussing on policy changes and opportunities for Australia in the food sphere.