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Achieving food and environmental security: new approaches to close the gap

Achieving food and environmental security: new approaches to close the gap
Achieving food and environmental security: new approaches to close the gap
Introduction
Achieving food security in a ‘perfect storm’ scenario is a grand challenge for society. Unless 50% more food, 50% more energy and 30% more freshwater are available by 2030, a ‘perfect storm’ is envisaged where there would be simultaneous shortages of all of these on a global scale [1]. This becomes an even more ‘wicked problem’ when climate change and an expanding global population act in concert, making the challenge of achieving global food security even more complex and demanding.

Food security ‘exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life’ [2, Plan of Action no. 1]. It is determined by four factors: (i) availability (from agricultural production and land-use or exchange); (ii) stability of supplies (e.g. seasonally and from year to year); (iii) access (dependent on financial means but also physical access and social factors); and (iv) biological utilization of food (e.g. nutritional diversity and food safety issues) [3]. It is estimated that almost one billion people face hunger through lack of macronutrients [4], and a further one billion lack sufficient micronutrients, leading to both negative health and development outcomes [5].

Millennium development goal (MDG) number 1 (eradicate hunger and poverty) is effectively coupled to many of the other MDGs; it is imperative that we develop mechanisms to meet MDG 1 and other goals that are complementary and which do not oppose one another. For example, sustainable intensification (SI) of agriculture has been proposed as a way to address hunger while also minimizing further environmental impact. However, the desire to raise productivity and yields has led historically to environmental degradation, reduced biodiversity and limitations to ecosystem services, with the greatest impacts falling upon the poor. Addressing MDGs in isolation can, therefore, be at the expense of others, and improved integration of actions is required. We must increase food security sustainably and in a climate change-resilient manner, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions, alleviating poverty and conserving biodiversity [4–7]: perhaps the greatest challenge that we have ever faced.

The relationship between food security outcomes and the environment is complex and multidimensional [8]. Food security is dependent not only on (non-provisioning) ecosystem services, but it is also one of the greatest drivers of the loss of ecosystem services. The pursuit of food security through increased agricultural production may include changes in land use, land cover, management practices and agricultural inputs, and it a key driver of landscape change [9].

The concepts of planetary boundaries and ‘safe operating space’ have already had a significant influence on the international discourse about global sustainability [10]. Nine interlinked ecological boundaries have been defined at the planetary scale, and it is argued that society should remain within these if it is to avoid ‘disastrous consequences for humanity’. Three of these (biodiversity loss, climate change and nitrogen cycling) have all been exceeded, and all are linked to agricultural intensification. A recent and novel framework for considering this concept has been proposed by economists from Oxfam [11]. The ‘safe and just operating spaces’ (doughnut) idea argues for the need to live within the ‘space’ that lies beneath the planetary boundary, yet above the social floor of basic and just needs for food, energy and water security, and social goods such as education and healthcare.

How do we deliver food security for all, without further exceeding planetary boundaries that have already been breached? Many of these social and just boundaries are linked to the MDGs and will undoubtedly be within the emerging sustainable development goals planned for post-2015. Science must play a central role in providing innovative solutions to these challenges, and this special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B captures a Discussion Meeting (‘Achieving food and environmental security: new approaches to close the gap’) that took place at the Royal Society, in London between 3 and 4 December 2012, to explore some of avenues that science is currently pursuing. It invited prominent speakers to report on (i) the challenges that we face in achieving food and environmental security, (ii) research and extension in pursuit of sustainable production intensification, (iii) innovation for sustainable agriculture and (iv) using the ecosystem services framework for managing agricultural ecosystems.

Following the London meeting, a workshop was held at the Kavli International Centre between 5 and 6 December 2012. Discussions at this meeting focused on reviewing the key issues, barriers and opportunities for science to contribute towards the new global agricultural systems that are needed to deliver food security. From this workshop, a statement ‘The Kavli Declaration: a vision for agriculture in 2050’ was developed. All of the attendees at the Kavli workshop have signed the declaration, which is presented in box 1.
agriculture, food security, ecosystem services, sustainable intensification, crop protection, millennium development goals
0962-8436
20120272-[6pp]
Poppy, G.M.
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Jepson, P.
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Pickett, J.A.
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Birkett, M.A.
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Poppy, G.M.
e18524cf-10ae-4ab4-b50c-e73e7d841389
Jepson, P.
1946c8a0-1f58-4d6b-91e1-b35f41b0346e
Pickett, J.A.
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Birkett, M.A.
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Poppy, G.M., Jepson, P., Pickett, J.A. and Birkett, M.A. (2014) Achieving food and environmental security: new approaches to close the gap. Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences, 369 (1639), 20120272-[6pp]. (doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0272). (PMID:24535396)

Record type: Article

Abstract

Introduction
Achieving food security in a ‘perfect storm’ scenario is a grand challenge for society. Unless 50% more food, 50% more energy and 30% more freshwater are available by 2030, a ‘perfect storm’ is envisaged where there would be simultaneous shortages of all of these on a global scale [1]. This becomes an even more ‘wicked problem’ when climate change and an expanding global population act in concert, making the challenge of achieving global food security even more complex and demanding.

Food security ‘exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life’ [2, Plan of Action no. 1]. It is determined by four factors: (i) availability (from agricultural production and land-use or exchange); (ii) stability of supplies (e.g. seasonally and from year to year); (iii) access (dependent on financial means but also physical access and social factors); and (iv) biological utilization of food (e.g. nutritional diversity and food safety issues) [3]. It is estimated that almost one billion people face hunger through lack of macronutrients [4], and a further one billion lack sufficient micronutrients, leading to both negative health and development outcomes [5].

Millennium development goal (MDG) number 1 (eradicate hunger and poverty) is effectively coupled to many of the other MDGs; it is imperative that we develop mechanisms to meet MDG 1 and other goals that are complementary and which do not oppose one another. For example, sustainable intensification (SI) of agriculture has been proposed as a way to address hunger while also minimizing further environmental impact. However, the desire to raise productivity and yields has led historically to environmental degradation, reduced biodiversity and limitations to ecosystem services, with the greatest impacts falling upon the poor. Addressing MDGs in isolation can, therefore, be at the expense of others, and improved integration of actions is required. We must increase food security sustainably and in a climate change-resilient manner, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions, alleviating poverty and conserving biodiversity [4–7]: perhaps the greatest challenge that we have ever faced.

The relationship between food security outcomes and the environment is complex and multidimensional [8]. Food security is dependent not only on (non-provisioning) ecosystem services, but it is also one of the greatest drivers of the loss of ecosystem services. The pursuit of food security through increased agricultural production may include changes in land use, land cover, management practices and agricultural inputs, and it a key driver of landscape change [9].

The concepts of planetary boundaries and ‘safe operating space’ have already had a significant influence on the international discourse about global sustainability [10]. Nine interlinked ecological boundaries have been defined at the planetary scale, and it is argued that society should remain within these if it is to avoid ‘disastrous consequences for humanity’. Three of these (biodiversity loss, climate change and nitrogen cycling) have all been exceeded, and all are linked to agricultural intensification. A recent and novel framework for considering this concept has been proposed by economists from Oxfam [11]. The ‘safe and just operating spaces’ (doughnut) idea argues for the need to live within the ‘space’ that lies beneath the planetary boundary, yet above the social floor of basic and just needs for food, energy and water security, and social goods such as education and healthcare.

How do we deliver food security for all, without further exceeding planetary boundaries that have already been breached? Many of these social and just boundaries are linked to the MDGs and will undoubtedly be within the emerging sustainable development goals planned for post-2015. Science must play a central role in providing innovative solutions to these challenges, and this special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B captures a Discussion Meeting (‘Achieving food and environmental security: new approaches to close the gap’) that took place at the Royal Society, in London between 3 and 4 December 2012, to explore some of avenues that science is currently pursuing. It invited prominent speakers to report on (i) the challenges that we face in achieving food and environmental security, (ii) research and extension in pursuit of sustainable production intensification, (iii) innovation for sustainable agriculture and (iv) using the ecosystem services framework for managing agricultural ecosystems.

Following the London meeting, a workshop was held at the Kavli International Centre between 5 and 6 December 2012. Discussions at this meeting focused on reviewing the key issues, barriers and opportunities for science to contribute towards the new global agricultural systems that are needed to deliver food security. From this workshop, a statement ‘The Kavli Declaration: a vision for agriculture in 2050’ was developed. All of the attendees at the Kavli workshop have signed the declaration, which is presented in box 1.

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Published date: 5 April 2014
Keywords: agriculture, food security, ecosystem services, sustainable intensification, crop protection, millennium development goals
Organisations: Centre for Biological Sciences

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Local EPrints ID: 377440
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/377440
ISSN: 0962-8436
PURE UUID: a7a6a1b2-2179-4d41-a88a-31aa32ef6931

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Date deposited: 15 Jun 2015 09:55
Last modified: 10 Jan 2020 17:32

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