Time to step up on food security

Time to step up on food security

"It's time to solve the greatest issue of our time, securing the food we need to feed the world," says Jose Cardenas with Elanco USA.

It's a powerful word on its own. Even more powerful combined with the word "food."

Enough food for all. Food security.

"It's time to solve the greatest issue of our time, securing the food we need to feed the world," says Jose Cardenas with Elanco USA. "We need to increase food production and decrease resource use. We have a window of time but the time to act is now," he told the 2014 Banff Pork Seminar.

 The growing protein gap

When agriculture productivity lags, food gaps appear, says Cardenas. "This isn't a prediction, it's a reality," he says. For example, the 2013 Global Protein Gap analysis estimates that by 2020 the global population won't have access to one glass of milk a day on average.

"Today, globally, we have access to about a glass a day or equivalent on average. The recommended daily intake is two glasses a day. On our current productivity path, more than 500 million people won't have access to even a glass a day.

"If we look at securing two glasses of milk that our bodies really need for growth and cognitive development, the gap grows to 4.5 billion people leaving about half the population without access to milk. That's five trillion servings short."

Rewriting the story

"We can rewrite the story," says Cardenas.

"Unlike many global challenges we have solutions to this problem if we act now. There are many pathways to this solution but there is general agreement that three solutions stand out as the most significant, can have the most impact and can be acted on the quickest."

Innovation. The products, practices and genetics that help farmers produce more food more sustainably. Many of these innovations are already available and proven.

"We must enable innovation more now than at any other time in our history," says Cardenas. "We must raise the bar on safety, but regulatory bodies that approve innovations must be the ultimate authority. We can't allow fringe movements or non-factual information to turn into the wrong policies and marketplace confusion that ultimately takes away proven solutions."

Choice. Farmers need to be able to choose the right practices for their operations. Consumers need to be able to choose food that fits their price, taste and nutritional needs. And we need regulators and policy-makers to make science-based policy choices. Choice must not be taken away without a fact-based, legitimate reason from science-based regulators. 

Trade. Trade is the mechanism that allows us to produce food where it is most economical and sustainable and deliver it to people who need it. Pure economics and environment prove that food must move from the most to the least productive area for a food secure tomorrow. Politics need to be reduced and trade needs to increase in parallel with local advances in food production.

A food secure tomorrow

Food security is solvable. Population growth will plateau between nine and 10 billion people. Unlike many of the world's challenges such as Alzheimer's, autoimmune disease, there are clear solutions, says Cardenas. "There is a window of time to meet the challenge. We have enough time if we act now."

"The next few years will determine if we have enough food to meet demand or if we deter middle class growth and disrupt global and environmental stability for decades to come. A healthier, more sustainable, more peaceful world is possible."

A new option

Cardenas called on his audience join a new initiative on food security launched by Elanco. They can do that by vising www.sensibletable.com , signing and sharing the "Enough manifesto," and engaging in social media conversation.

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