The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog

Rethinking Food Security

Posted in Food Security by NTSblog on April 12, 2011

“I eat, therefore I can”, recreating from Descartes’ famous phrase I think, therefore I amWayne Roberts chose the phrase as the title of one of the chapters in his book, The No-nonsense Guide to World Food. Having been involved in food activism for ten years, he had already realized that food would become a serious global problem in the future since he started the activism in 1990s. Today, people make more food related decisions than any other decisions in one day.

Inspired by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement that the food crisis is a forgotten crisis, some of us have deeply contemplated that the food crisis leads to food insecurity, and it is potentially exacerbated by climate change. However, the argument that is often used as an excuse for lack of action is that there are no quick and easy solutions in dealing with the food security challenges.

Interestingly, the above argument might be relevant if we realize that we have already been entrapped in the game of global industrialized food system, while there are in fact other alternative food systems. The global industrialized food system has failed to provide food security for all nations.  Food is seen as a global commodity. As a consequence, international forces erode domestic control and protection over its own food system. More powerful country or any international institution tries to intervene policies related to agriculture and food of less powerful country. It would seem that the issue has gone beyond food security. Rather it has become food sovereignty, the thinking that embraces the cultural, historical, spiritual and ecological depths of food system.

Integrated and robust actions that involve changes at local, regional and international levels are needed. Particularly at the local level, actions must be immediate, realistic and provable. This is also in line with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization’s definition of a world without hunger emphasizing that “social safety nets ensure that those who lack resources still get enough to eat”. However, such bottom-up initiatives should not undermine the responsibility of governments and other stakeholders within the food system. Most importantly is the political will to create the change at policy level which allows every farmer, every community and every country have their individual right to food.


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