Unless you’ve been living under a rock (and I wouldn’t judge you for that – whatever floats your boat!), my lovely, smart, discerning and sophisticated readers will all be only too aware of the current precarious state of the global food system. While millions go to bed hungry each night, millions of us struggle with health issues which are a direct result of being over-weight. Children in sub-Saharan Africa are starving to death, while those of us in western countries throw millions of tonnes of food waste into landfill. Globally, there is more than enough food produced to feed everyone, but because of energy prices, land grabs, competition for land from biofuel production, climate change and unfair trade millions of people do not have access to that food. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I find the whole issue can be a little overwhelming for me sometimes and I have days when I struggle to believe that anything I do can change what is looking to be a pretty bleak outcome. Until, that is, I attended the Oxfam Australia “Future of Food” forum here in Adelaide last night.
Presented at the Hawke Centre, The “Future of Food” forum was held to launch Oxfam‘s latest global food campaign, Grow, which aims to encourage people all around the world to work together to ensure “that everyone, everywhere has enough to eat, always”. It takes a good hard look at what is clearly a broken food system and sets out specific ways in which we can all be a part of fixing the inequalities and injustices of the global system and replace it with a new sustainable one. The forum was addressed by several speakers, including Kelly Dent, Oxfam Australia‘s Economic Justice Advocacy Coordinator who gave a brief overview of an international report which has been put together, Professor Roger Leigh, the Director of Adelaide University’s Waite Research Institute who spoke about the role of science in feeding the future populations and Claire Nettle, Adelaide’s Community Gardens advocate who shared with us her views on the wider implications and consequences of local community involvement in the food chain.
Oxfam has put together a remarkably comprehensive report which pulls together, in one document, all the threads of our fraying global food system. It is sobering reading, but is the first really accessible document that I have seen which spells out every situation which is impacting on a food system that is lurching it’s way towards disaster. If you are interested in the complete picture of the global food system the full report of “Growing a Better Future” is available for downloading here and is well worth the hour or two it will take to get through it. For the time-poor or information-overloaded there is also an abbreviated version available for download here. I guess the most important point that I took from reading the report is that we can act to avert the coming crisis in many ways, both large and small, and the message that Oxfam are keen to get out is that we all need to do what we can together, but we need to do it soon.
If you find any of the following points alarming or cause for concern –
1. Land grabs by companies, investors and food-insecure governments are escalating at an unprecedented rate – in 2009 Africa saw 22 years of land investment in 12 months
2. As a direct result of biofuel production, urbanisation & timber production the amount of arable land per head is decreasing and has almost halved since 1960
3. Food is being wasted at an astonishing rate with an estimated 25% of food purchased in wealthy countries ending up in the bin
4. A few hundred companies control 70% of the choices in the food system globally
then please take a look at Oxfam’s report, check out the Grow website, work out what you think you can do and then talk – to anyone and everyone. Share the word, spread the message and keep this topic on everyone’s radar.
Food security is something we all need to care about, right now.