The issue of global food security in the future
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Introduction Food is a necessity for life, yet millions of people every day go without it, due to a lack of global food security. Food has been used for millenniums to bring people together, yet there are people in poverty every day that don’t know where their next meal is coming from. With the population steadily growing, now is a more important time than ever to eradicate hunger around the world.
Description of the issue
With the population set to have increased by more than 35% (Foley, 2014) in 2050, we will be faced with the reality of having to feed nine billion people. For this to be achievable, crop production would need to double, as it would have to significantly outpace population growth. With millions currently starving around the world, global food security doesn’t seem achievable. However, if we work together and are guided by the principles of human flourishing, the agriculture industry should be able to grow alongside our population, eventually resulting in food security for all.
Reasons why this issue is one associated with social justice
The United Nations (un.org, n.d.) defines social justice as “an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. We uphold the principles of social justice when we promote gender equality or the rights of indigenous peoples and migrants. We advance social justice when we remove barriers that people face because of gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture or disability”. Food stability is an issue associated with social justice due to the millions of people starving around the world every day because of a lack of access to food, or an inability to purchase it. Food is a necessity to live, and therefore should be available to all, regardless of geographic location, economic status, or any other disability.
Stakeholders involved in this issue and analysis of their perspectives Scientific research and development bodies play a vital role in the issue of food security going forward. Global partnerships such as CGIAR work towards research for agricultural production in the developing world. Their aim is to “identify significant global development problems that science can help solve; collect and organize knowledge related to these development problems; develop research programs to fill the knowledge gaps to solve these development problems; catalyze and lead putting research into practice, and policies and institutions into place, to solve these development problems; lead monitoring and evaluation, share the lessons we learn and best practices we discover; conserve, evaluate and share genetic diversity; and strengthen skills and knowledge in agricultural research for development around the world” (CGIAR, n.d.). Through their aims, they hope to achieve four main goals: reduce rural poverty, improve food security, improve nutrition and health, and have sustainably managed natural resources. CGIAR believe that science can make radical changes to the current issue of food security, and it has been cited that “one dollar invested in CGIAR research results in about nine dollars in increased productivity in developing nations” (CGIAR, n.d.). Partnerships and bodies such as CGIAR want the current situation in regards to food security to change, as they realized that the present condition is neither sustainable, nor fair, and while it may not be easily fixed, scientific breakthroughs make the issue of food security appear to be one that can be solved. Farmers make up for 60% of the worlds population (apcentral.collegeboard.com, n.d.), yet they are constantly under threat from large corporations buying up their land. Many countries also face the issue of how to ensure increased efficiency in farming the land we already have, as Foley (2014) states “most of the land cleared for agriculture in the tropics does not contribute much to the world’s food security but is instead used to produce cattle, soybeans for livestock, timber, and palm oil. Avoiding further deforestation must be a top priority.” There are currently “yield gaps” between existing production levels and those possible in areas such as Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. “Using high-tech, precision farming systems, as well as approaches borrowed from organic farming, we could boost yields in these places several times over” (Foley, 2014), which is important in providing more food to the world, while not increasing the size of the agricultural footprint. If farmers were able to invest in these technologies, such as subsurface drip irrigation, cover crops, and mulches, there may be a high upfront cost, but they would be producing more, which would lead to them increasing their profit once the produce is sold. With a higher profit, these small farmers may be able to better stand their ground against large corporations. These methods of organic farming are also more environmentally friendly, which is important as issues such as climate change have a large impact on agriculture. While it is often believed that small farmers are better, putting more heart and soul into what they do, there is still a role for multinational agribusinesses in the road towards food security. Many of these businesses, such as Monsanto, have been working to develop products, and methods to help farmers grow more on the land they have. Agribusinesses work closely with the scientific research and development bodies, as they are often the largest investors. Companies, like Monsanto, have spent millions on developing agricultural innovations in key areas, such as breeding, where they select the more desirable traits from existing plants; biotechnology, where they add these beneficial traits into the DNA of another plant; integrated farming systems (IFS), which helps farmers utilise the resources they have for maximum yield, while reducing the amount of wasted resources; and chemistry, where studies are done to minimise environmental impact of herbicides, while still protecting crops from pests (Monsanto.com, n.d.). Companies like Monsanto recognise that they need to invest further in agriculture, as the lack of food security means that they are being badly perceived, and largely blamed, due to their for-profit nature, and their use of terminator genes in their seeds, leaving a heavy financial burden on farmers, as they are unable to use the seeds again for next year. Many foods are already genetically modified, but Monsanto’s lack of ethical boundaries in doing so (such as the terminator gene to boost their profits, and crops that will only work in conjunction with their other products to gain and to capture a captive market), has resulted in public outcry against the corporation worldwide. Protest against the company has come from all corners of the globe, not just the United States, and Australia, as it is the farmers in the developing world that are most effected. These sort of issues need to be addressed if we are to produce enough food for the growing population, as all farmland needs to be utilised efficiently, not just those farmers who can afford it.
Analysis of the issue in relation to the common good and the principles of human flourishing The common good can be defined as benefiting everybody in the world. Human flourishing comes from the Greek word eudemonia, which is a core idea to Aristotelian philosophy. It promotes the idea that by working together, and finding meaning in our lives, we will flourish as a whole. The principles of human flourishing guide us in ways we can work together and find the meaning we need to achieve this.
Global food security is an issue affecting the word, where the current injustice of the many people left malnourished needs to be responded to at a global level. The common good urges us to work together in collaboration to take responsibility for those around us, and pursue conditions in which we can achieve a life that is good for all, not just a majority. In order to achieve this, we must fight against injustices, such as Monsanto’s mistreatment of small farmers, at both local and global levels. Charity organizations can only do so much to help, and promoting the common good often challenges many current social values, and social structures that allow these injustices to take place without government interference. The main principles of human flourishing relating to the issue of food security is: the dignity of the human person, preferential option for the poor, stewardship of creation, and solidarity. The dignity of the human person is an important principle in food security, as it promotes the rights of those who may not be able to bring attention to their needs themselves. Avocation is important, as it is often those who need the most help that are unable to ask for it. Many small farmers in Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe are struggling to produce enough food, not just for global consumption, but also for themselves. Due to their nature as small farmers and not multination businesses, their voice isn’t often heard when speaking out against the problems in the agriculture industry worldwide, such as Monsanto’s use of terminator genes in their seeds, which further disadvantages the poor.
The poor cannot afford to keep buying new seeds every season, often relying on the seeds gathered from last season to replant. This keeps costs low for small farmers, and allows them to increase their profit margin. Monsanto’s use of the terminator gene means that the seeds can only be used once, and often only used when combined with other Monsanto products. Monsanto has been suffering public backlash over these issues for years as a result. A preferential option for the poor would see governments and not-for-profit organizations providing resources, such as non-genetically modified seed, or fertilizer, to these smaller farmers, allowing them to kick start their production. This would utilize the land already cleared for farming, and reduce environmental impact as well.
Stewardship of creation is the principle of looking after the planet. Agriculture has already lead to “an area roughly the size of South America” (Foley, 2014) being cleared for crops, and even more land “roughly the size of Africa” (Foley, 2014) has been cleared as pastureland for livestock. This has resulted in the loss of whole ecosystems, and is not sustainable. Particularly with the rise of global warming, deforestation is not an option. In order for us to maintain the planet for future generations, we must use the land we have available more efficiently so we can still produce enough to provide food security. It is our responsibility to care for the planet, so it can care for us in return.
Solidarity is the principle that it is our responsibility to care for each other across racial, economic, cultural, national, and ideological differences, while promoting rights for every person. In order to accommodate their needs, we must first recognize that everybody is different; while there are people starving in developing nations around the world, there are also many homeless and hungry people right here in Sydney that require our help. Their needs may differ greatly, despite their common problem of a shortage of food. Solidarity is recognizing those abroad, as well as those at home, and working towards global food security together.
A proposed resolution for realising the common good
In order to reach global food security by 2050, we must take steps now to be able to achieve the common good. With scientific developments, we are able to better develop the land we already have available, allowing us to produce more without further damaging the environment. By utilising high-tech farming systems, we can work towards reducing the yield gaps we currently have, boosting the output from these areas, as well as providing a much more reliable source of income to these small farmers.
With the scientific research and developments that have taken, and are currently taking place, small farmers are able to better understand the best ways to work their land, not only to create a higher yield, but also to save and use resources more efficiently. This helps the environment, as up to 70% of water is used in agriculture, and also saves the small farmers money.
A big part of realising the common good is understanding our part in it on an individual scale as well. We may not be scientists or farmers, but by participating in actively changing our diet, we, too, can help global food security be achievable by 2050. As Foley (2014) states, “for every 100 calories of grain we feed animals, we get only about 40 new calories of milk, 22 calories of eggs, 12 of chicken, 10 of pork, or 3 of beef. Finding more efficient ways to grow meat and shifting to less meat-intensive diets—even just switching from grain-fed beef to meats like chicken, pork, or pasture-raised beef—could free up substantial amounts of food across the world”.
Global food security is an issue that affects us all. Agriculture is one of the oldest and largest industries in the world, but it still has a long way to go before it is able to cater for the growing population. However, the issue has been recognised, and together, we are working towards eliminating hunger, and providing food security by 2050.
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