Global Food Security
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By Richard Longworth
While the number of small organic farms is growing, they provide less than one percent of the United States food supply. The larger trend is for American farms to get bigger, and most food is grown on big, highly-specialized farms; these are the farms the feed the world. Addressing global food security issues requires helping these farms further improve their efficiency and productivity. But large-scale farming is not sustainable as long as it relies on chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers that damage the land and pollute the water.
Today high-tech farming in the U.S. is increasing yields and reducing soil damage, large cattle farms are experimenting with power generation from methane, and researchers are working with industry to develop fertilizers and herbicides that do less environmental damage. Such efforts must be part of any serious effort to address food security.
With over 900 million people chronically undernourished around the world, low agricultural productivity in the developing world is a key factor exacerbating food insecurity, and a recent white paper by a working group of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs calls on the United States to make global agricultural development and food security a priority agenda item at the G8 Summit in May.
“America is one of the most innovative and productive agricultural countries in the world,” said working group co-chair Doug Bereuter, president emeritus of the Asia Foundation and a former congressman. “The U.S. is well-positioned to lead a new G8 commitment to increasing the productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers and developing sustainable agriculture value chains in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.”
The Council’s Global Agricultural and Food Policy Initiative (GAPFI) examines the question of how U.S. policies can best respond to the growing global demand for food while harnessing agricultural development as a means to spur economic development and alleviate poverty.
GAPFI projects explore how how agriculture and food issues intersect with a broader development agenda, including health and nutrition as well as the role of women and girls in rural economies. The Initiative’s domestic and global work, drawing from expertise in academic, policy, corporate, and civil society spheres, has influenced deliberations over the 2008 Farm Bill, the administration’s Feed The Future initiative, and UN meetings on health and gender issues.