Improving global food security can’t be tackled in isolation and needs to be aligned with concerted government action to drive down world inequality, food policymakers and experts have been told.
Phil Bloomer, director of campaigns and policy at Oxfam, said there was a common consensus that feeding a growing population hinged on producing more food in a sustainable fashion while wasting less, but argued this would only succeed alongside radical measures to reduce inequality in the world.
Speaking at the Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum in London yesterday (March 5), Bloomer said there were three policy steps that the UK government needed to adopt to achieve this.
He said far more attention needed to be paid to an “unprecedented rise in land grabbing” in the developing world that had led an area the size of Kenya being taken from African communities in the past decade as land prices soared.
Dispossessed by land acquisition
“Therefore people who had food security and could afford to send their kids to school are now living in plastic shacks at the side of the road because they have been dispossessed by land acquisition,” he said.
“We want to see the UK put land at the front and centre [of foreign and international development strategy] and for the World Bank to change its regulations on this because it sets the agenda that others follow.”
Speaking at the event held in London, Bloomer also called on ministers to help identify new sources of funding to help with climate change mitigation and improving agriculture in developing countries.
While welcoming the government’s commitment to spending 0.7% of gross domestic product on international development, he said many other funding commitments for small-holding agriculture around the world had failed to materialise.
Robin Hood tax
“We need new sources of finance, and innovative sources of finance, because we know most treasuries are empty after bailing out the banks,” he said, adding that this would be an ideal beneficiary of a “Robin Hood tax”.
Finally, Bloomer, said it would only be possible to feed the projected 9bn global population by 2050 if governments, including the UK, stopped providing support and subsidies for land-based biofuels that competed with food production.
“Biofuels make the climate hotter and contribute to higher prices,” he added.
“We want the UK government to limit land-based biofuels and phase out support for those that compete with food production,” he said.
Dan Crossley, executive director at the Food Ethics Council, struck a similar tone, but also claimed it was time for the social and environmental costs of food production to be reflected in prices in a bid to create a “fairer and more sustainable” global food system.