CONSUMERS, FOOD SECURITY EXPERTS AT ODDS OVER SOLUTIONS TO GLOBAL HUNGER
Oct. 16, 2013
Source: The Center for Food Integrity news release
U.S. consumers and international food security experts agree: supporting the adoption of agricultural technology that leads to self-sufficiency and increasing support for smallholder farmers are important to addressing growing global hunger and malnutrition.
The two solutions rate highest among consumers and experts in two separate studies conducted by The Center for Food Integrity (CFI).
But support for the top solutions isn't as strong among consumers, who also are at odds with the experts when it comes to increasing organic food production and direct aid in the developing world.
Sixteen recognized leaders on food security issues from seven countries were asked to rate 14 potential solutions to global hunger in the Global Hunger Solutions 2013 survey, part of CFI's efforts to increase awareness of critical global hunger issues. Consumers were asked to rate the same solutions in CFI's annual consumer trust research.
"The proposed solutions are pressing because one in eight people, or 12.5 percent of the global population, is undernourished according to the United Nations," said Charlie Arnot, CEO of CFI, "with the vast majority of the chronically hungry, living in developing countries."
On a scale of one to five, with one being "not at all important" and five being "critically important," the experts rated "public policy that supports agricultural practices that lead to greater food self-sufficiency in the developing world" at 4.4, the highest expert rating; consumers rated the same solution at 4.0. Experts rated "the application of technology that increases agricultural production and reduces the impact of the environment" at 4.2, the second-highest expert rating; consumers rated the same solution at 3.9.
Experts and consumers are at odds when it comes to providing direct food aid and increasing organic food production as solutions. Consumers rated "increasing direct food aid in the developing world" at 3.6, while experts rated the solution at 2.5 - the second lowest rating in the expert survey.
The biggest disparity is seen when it comes to increasing organic production in the developing world. Consumers rated the solution at 3.6, while experts rated it 1.7, the lowest rating they assigned.
"The gap between expert opinion and U.S. consumer opinion on hunger solutions reflects one of the ongoing challenges in addressing food insecurity," said Arnot. "Building broader consensus around hunger solutions will help build public
and policymaker support for those solutions. Focusing on solutions that have the greatest impact and broad support provides the best opportunity for success. Both experts and consumers support the adoption of technology that helps smallholder farmers build capacity to achieve self-sufficiency."
Other results include:
"Improved food distribution in the developing world": consumers 3.9, experts 4.1
"Educational support to smallholder farmers to encourage agricultural practices that maximize yields and minimize environmental impact": consumers 3.9, experts 4.1
"Public policy that encourages the application of technology that increases agricultural production and reduces impact on the environment": consumers, 3.8, experts 4.2.
A majority of the experts in the 2013 Global Hunger Solutions report expressed optimism that global food insecurity can be solved.
"It can be solved but it will require open minds on technology and agriculture productivity improvements," said Aalt Dijkhuizen, president of Wageningen University & Research Centre, The Netherlands.
"It will require using science to enhance agriculture technology, reducing waste, improving logistics and more efficient water technologies," said Rolando Dy, executive director of the University of Asia and the Pacific Center for Food and Agribusiness. "But particularly in developing countries, you need to have good governance."
Left unaddressed, the food security experts feel continued increases in global hunger and malnutrition will lead to social and political unrest, environmental degradation and the failure of millions of people to reach full mental and physical capacity.
"Hunger and malnutrition lowers human potential," said John Lamb, senior fellow and principal associate for Agriculture and Food Security at Abt Associates. "It has physiological effects on the brain that lead to a loss of IQ. Spreading this problem over an entire population eventually leads to a two- or three-point drop in GDP for a country."
"If we don't figure out how to increase food production while using fewer natural resources there will be severe environmental consequences - massive destruction of forests, loss of wildlife, biodiversity and carbon sequestration capacity," said Bob Thompson, visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and senior fellow at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
The full CFI Global Hunger Solutions 2013 report can be found at www.foodIntegrity.org.
About Center for Food Integrity
The Center for Food Integrity is a not-for-profit corporation established to build consumer trust and confidence in today's food system. Our members, who represent every segment of the food system, are committed to providing accurate information and addressing important issues among all food system stakeholders. The Center does not lobby or advocate for individual food companies or brands. For more information, visit www.foodintegrity.org.