BirdLife's view on the 'Food security crisis'
New BirdLife's discussion paper: Food security,climate change & biodiversity - The role of European agriculture in a changing world"
Climate change, biodiversity loss, hunger and poverty, rural development and regulation of world trade are all challenges that face global agriculture and areas in which the choices made by the European Union will play a vital role. While further research is still needed to better understand the complex mechanisms linking agricultural production, food consumption, environmental degradation and social problems, much scientific evidence is already available and can help inform EU decision makers. Download BirdLife's discussion paper "Food security,climate change & biodiversity - The role of European agriculture in a changing world" here.
The recent spike in food prices has provoked politicians to call for an immediate boost in agricultural output. This short-sighted and misplaced reaction risks inflicting long term damages to answer a non existing short term crisis. At the moment, at least for the foreseeable short term future, the world is not running out of food; in fact, stocks which could have stabilised the prices of food were instead put into other uses – primarily biofuels (Mitchell, 2008). People are starving in the developing world because they are too poor to afford food, not because there is not enough food on the global market. On the other hand, food prices are recovering from an historical low which is not necessarily a bad thing, particularly for 1.3 billions of poor subsistence and semi-subsistence farmers around the world.
The best thing the EU can do to response to the food crisis is to help, through its development policies, developing countries to increase their yields in a sustainable manner. Continuing with a business-as-usual scenario of boosting yields through energy and input intensive farming that deplete and pollute precious water resources, degrade soil quality and drive species to extinction, is by no means a solution -- particularly with the risk of agricultural production collapse due to changing climatic conditions worldwide.
The only realistic way to ensure long term food security and to avoid a real crisis is to ensure that agricultural resource base such as soil, water and biodiversity is effectively protected, both in developed and developing countries. In EU, an easy win-win option is to support Europe’s High Nature Value farming systems so they could go on being a source of high quality and sustainable food, while preventing such traditional farm from being abandoned would in the mean time benefit farmland biodiversity.
Mitchell, D. (2008) A note on rising food prices.
FAO (2008) World food security: the challenges of climate change and bioenergy