Leading scientists launch action plan on food security

Around one third of produced food gets wasted Copyright: Flickr/CIAT by Neil Palmer

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[LONDON] A charter on food security outlining how each sector of society can take action was launched yesterday (28 March) by an international commission of senior scientists.

‘Achieving food security in the face of climate change’ is a synthesis of 16 scientific reports on the issue released over the last few years. Its authors come from 13 countries and include natural and social scientists.

Speaking at the Planet Under Pressure conference in London, United Kingdom this week (26–29 March), the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change outlined seven recommendations designed to be carried out simultaneously by different parties such as consumers, governments, international institutions, investors and researchers.

The commission called for changes to agriculture, development aid, diet choices, finance, food waste and policy, as well as revitalised investment in the knowledge systems to support these changes.

This article is part of our Planet Under Pressure 2012 coverage — which takes place 26–29 March 2012. To read insights from our conference team please visit our blog.

"Many public and private sector leaders are already taking steps to overcome different barriers to a sustainable food system," said Bruce Campbell, director of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research’s Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, which convened the commission in February 2011.

"The commission’s work spells out through this report who needs to do what to take these early efforts to the next level," he told the conference.

"Most of the reports released in the last few years were sector-based, or focused on particular factors only, but this report is an integrated version of all 16 reports that we reviewed," said Tekalign Mamo, Ethiopian minister for agriculture and a commission member.

"We picked the scientific knowledge and practical solutions that have been accumulated through these reports and tried to find the way forward," he told SciDev.Net.

"A lot has been said about the global challenge of feeding a world confronted by climate change, population growth and poverty, yet the initiatives have to be coordinated," said Mamo.

He added there "there should be a united front to negotiate, put frameworks in place, deal with problems and concentrate on the solutions".

Molly Jahn, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States, and commission member, pointed out that "the report is a framework that can help many bodies to tackle the food security problem from the individual level to the global level".

He added that a key feature is that it avoids siding with any sector — for example public versus private "as the situation is critical for everyone".

Nearly one billion people are undernourished while the world loses 12 million hectares of agricultural land each year to land degradation, yet roughly one third of food produced for humans is lost or wasted, according to the report.

Land clearing and inefficient practices make agriculture the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet.

See below for a video by the commission:

Link to full report [4.45MB]

Link to live web streaming of the conference

For more news and analysis of the Planet Under Pressure 2012 conference click here, and also see our live blog.