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A Sustainability Challenge: Food Security for All

Workshop 2:
Exploring Sustainable Solutions for Increasing Global Food Supplies
Venable LLP Conference Center, Capitol Room
575 Seventh Street NW
Washington, DC 20004
May 2-4, 2011

Brief background and Objective:                                                                                                        

Individual and household food security depends on access to the food needed to meet food and nutritional needs, a condition strongly related to household income.  Food availability is necessary, but not sufficient, to achieve food security.  However, availability of sufficient food for current and future generations is critical and must be based on sustainable methods of production and distribution that is, using resources available now in such a way that their availability for production and distribution in the future is not compromised or precluded.  Recent and current debate surrounding recent food price volatility and the impact of climate change on the future food supplies made the topic very timely and important. 

While keeping in mind the critical importance of access to food, this workshop focused on the question of sustainable food availability and the related natural resource constraints and policies. The overall objective was to identify (i) the major barriers to expanding food production to meet future food demand without damaging the future productive capacity and (ii) policy, technology and governance interventions that could reduce these barriers and promote sustainable food availability as a basic pillar of sustainable food security.

workshop structure:                                                                                                                                    

This workshop built on the findings of a first workshop, in which expert participants explored the availability and quality of metrics that helped us understand the concept of “sustainable food security.”  On the theory that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” consideration was given to the metrics of: poverty; undernutrition or “hunger”; malnutrition; farm productivity; natural resource productivity (land, water, soil quality, etc.); and food supply chain efficiencies or losses.  It was clear that there were different ways of understanding and measuring these concepts and relating them to each other (e.g., household poverty and childrens’ heights) in meaningful ways. The use of different geographic scales was particularly striking as relevant data on production and productivity, for example, related variously to: households, fields, farm, landscapes, river basins, nations, regions, or continents. By being “spatially explicit,” it was believed that data and information relevant at smaller scales could also be meaningfully aggregated to meso- and macro-scales.

Overall, however, experts in Workshop 1 concluded that:

  • The quality of metrics is not as good as it needs to be for accurately understanding, monitoring, or predicting food security and the sustainability of food production processes given natural resource conditions, policies, and market incentives;
  • Suites of metrics/indicators are needed to understand the phenomena associated with sustainable food security (both availability of food and access of poor populations to it), although even existing suites of metrics are rarely integrated adequately for decision makers today; and
  • There are few integrated sets of relevant data that are widely accessible and allow analysts to work at sufficiently broad scales as well as at more local (including household) scales.

The first day of this second workshop opened with a recap of findings from Workshop 1, reflecting the availability and quality of data indicators and projections of both poverty/food security and resource use trends as they are currently understood, while also framing the potential of various factors to pose new opportunities, risks and vulnerabilities that would affect trends going forward.  These presentations enabled workshop 2 participants to see what the existing evidence tells us regarding the magnitude of the problems and challenges and opportunities for their solutions.

Subsequent sessions on day one of Workshop 2 digged more deeply into the trends associated with natural resources that are believed to pose hard constraints to food supply and availability. The second day of this second workshop explored several of the policy, market, and governance approaches currently thought to be needed to resolve the constraints posed by natural resources to food availability at various scales: global, regional, and local. The third day engaged participants in consideration of what changes (in public policy and regulatory institutions, markets and other economic institutions dominated by the private sector, and social and cultural institutions) would be needed to raise the probabilities for ensuring that food availabilities in 2050 respond to global food demands and the nutritional needs of more than 9 billion people.


Presenters were asked to prepare written papers to support their oral presentations. This workshop involved a diverse set of participants: researchers, analysts, academics, and development leaders in a wide range of fields – food production, resource management, environmental conservation, climate, and others. 

Agenda and presentations:                                                                                                                                          


Monday, May 2, 2011

8:30 AM           Welcome and a Conceptual Framework for the Workshop
                         Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Cornell University, Committee Chair
This presentation was based on a conceptual model developed to show the links between sustainable food production/supply, food security and interventions by the public and private sector and civil society. The model provided the framework for the content and organization of the workshop.


9:00 AM           Current and Expected Future Food and Nutrition Security 
                         Hartwig de Haen, Former FAO Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social Department

This presentation set the stage for what needed to be accomplished.  It presented scenarios for the future trends in food security based on the best evidence available and it assessed the quality of the evidence drawing on outcomes of the first workshop and other relevant projections. The nature of the dietary transition, the triple burden of malnutrition and other relevant issues were included to provide the foundation for subsequent presentations.

9:30 AM           Future Agricultural Productivity and Changes in the Endowment of Natural Resources 
                         Phil Pardey, University of Minnesota

A brief description of the trends and challenges on the basis of the best evidence available and it assessed the quality of the evidence drawing on the outcomes and other relevant projections.

10:00 AM          Are New Agricultural Paradigms Needed to Facilitate Sustainable Food Security in the Context of Uncertainties and Risks 
                          Marco Ferroni, The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

Climate Change, Technology Choices, Biofuels, Energy Prices, and Shifting Markets for Resources

10:30 AM          Q&A and Discussion with the Audience

11:00 AM          BREAK

11:20 AM          The Natural Resource Constraints to Sustainable Increases in Food Production 
                           Moderator: Jason Clay, World Wildlife Fund

These presentations assessed the constraints, the challenges and the opportunities for removing the constraints to achieve sustainability. Each presentation made global and regional assessments and identified the regions where the constraints were most critical and where the challenges were the greatest. The importance of the food system in the demand for the particular resource and competing demands was considered.  Since a subsequent section delt with possible interventions, these presentations focused on an assessment of the problems and challenges but also included suggestions for resource-specific interventions by the public and private sector and civil society. 

                              o Water  David Molden, IWMI
                              o Land and Forests  Paul Vlek, University of Bonn
                              o Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture  Jason Clay, World Wildlife Fund

12:20 PM LUNCH

1:20 PM              o Biodiversity and the Future Food Supplies  Tim Benton, Leeds University
                             o Soil Health of Tropical Africa: An Essential Element of Improved Agricultural Productivity  Uzo Mokwunye, Consultant 
                             o Energy: Fossil Fuels, Biofuel and Alternatives  Dan Kammen, The World Bank

2:50 PM             Q&A and Discussion with the Audience

3:20 PM             BREAK

3:40 PM             Dealing with Climate Change
                            Moderator: Bert Drake, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (ret.) 
                             o Climate Change Projection and Potential Impact on the Food System  Jerry Nelson, IFPRI
                             o Risks and Vulnerabilities  David Lobell, Stanford University

4:40 PM             Q&A and Discussion with Audience

5:00 PM             END of DAY ONE

6:00 PM             Working Dinner for Steering Committee and Invited Guests
                            Presentation of Data Quality Monitoring: Prabhu Pingali, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Several potential approaches to achieving sustainable food availability were discussed. Most of these already have champions and many have undergone some pilot testing, providing some information on strengths and weaknesses. Presenters took this learning and experience into account and provided subjective assessments as to scalability and broad impact, impact on affordability of food, and relative contributions to sustainability.

8:30 AM               Conclusion of Dinner Discussion and Recommendation for Follow-up
                             Prabhu Pingali, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

9:00 AM               Farm-level Sustainability Intensification 
                             Mike Bushell, Syngenta

Farm level sustainable intensification through farm-focused management improvements, supported by S&T.

9:30 AM               Food Value Chains Leading to Sustainable Intensification
                             Maximo Torero, IFPRI

Enable smallholder farmers to link into markets through commodity value chains, institutional innovations, incentives and credit to achieve sustainable intensification.

10:00 AM             Ecosystem Management
                             Jeffrey Milder, EcoAgriculture Partners

Taking an ecosystem conservation approach focused on conserving stored carbon in plants, encouraging more carbon sequestration and assuring sustainable management of natural resources while expanding food production, through agricultural and environmental regulation and best practices for sustainably intensified production. The role of organic production.

10:30 AM              BREAK

10:50 AM              Reduction of Yield Gaps to Increase Productivity Sustainability
                               Jude Capper, Washington State University

Addressed the yield gap; increase productivity of crops and animals for consumption by applying science and technology while achieving sustainable and more efficient use of natural resources. Are transgenics an option? Where do organic approaches come in?

11:20 AM             Energy Efficiency
                              Amit Roy, IFDC (Presented by Donald Crane, IFDC)

Since a key metric of food production is energy produced, a focus on increased energy efficiency of production systems (less energy inputs per unit of energy produced, using less fossil fuel, deploying alternative sources of energy for production) would contribute to a more sustainable food system.

11:50 PM             Discussion of Morning’s Presentations: Do they add up, offer complementary alternatives?

12:30 PM             LUNCH

1:30 PM               Private Investment and Farm Size Issues
                              Derek Byerlee, CGIAR

Are there economies of scale in primary production? Are land tenure systems capable of supporting any needed changes in farm sizes without destabilizing inequities? What is the role of recent and on-going land acquisitions in low-income Africa? Will that lead to sustainable food production increases?

2:00 PM               Losses and Waste in the Supply Chain
                              Adel Kader, University of California, Davis (Presented by James Gorny, U.S Food and Drug Administration)

How large are the losses and wastes and how can they be reduced through better management (agribusiness role), new technologies (S&T role) or some other way?

2:30 PM              Q&A and Discussion with the Audience

3:00 PM              BREAK

3:20 PM              Global Public Goods: Natural Resources
                             Nancy McCarthy, FAO

Managing natural resources for sustainable food availability and food security must go beyond national boundaries. River basin organizations, organizations like the Congo Basin Initiative, provide some regional governance. Is a greater degree of global coordination needed? How might it be organized?

3:50 PM              Global Public Goods: Food Safety
                             Laurian Unnevehr, Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Food safety is managed by both private sector market players and national governments. Food safety challenges may increase with globalization and climate change. Are there new approaches to managing food safety sustainably in global supply chains?

4:20 PM               Discussion, Wrap Up and Summary

5:00 PM               END of DAY TWO

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


8:30 AM              Endogenize the Social Costs of Natural Resource Degradation and Climate Change
                            Jason Clay, World Wildlife Fund

Introduced the concepts of full costing, PP, PES, multiple wins and application to natural resource management and climate change to strengthen the resource base and achieve a sustainable future food supply.

9:00 AM              Political Economy Issues, Priorities and Political Will 
                            Rob Paarlberg, Wellesley College

Considered both national and international issues including national and international agricultural and trade policies.

9:30 AM              Incentives and Limitations to Action by Civil Society 
                            Brian Greenberg, InterAction

10:00 AM            Incentives and Limitations to Action by the Private Sector
                             Dennis Treacy, Smithfield Foods

10:30 AM            BREAK

10:50 AM            Confront Trade-Offs, Remove National and International Externalities, Seek Multiple Wins, and 
                             Establish Coalitions and Partnerships
                             Moderator: Laurian Unnevehr, U.S. Department of Agriculture
                               o Panelist 1: Carol Kramer-LeBlanc, U.S. Department of Agriculture
                               o Panelist 2: Emmy Simmons, U.S. Agency for International Development (ret.)
                               o Panelist 3: Melinda Kimble, United Nations Foundation

11:35 AM          Q&A and Discussion with Audience

12:15 AM          Concluding Comments
                           Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Cornell University, Committee Chair

12:30 PM          ADJOURN for Public Session


Disclaimer: This website contains unedited verbatim presentations made by workshop participants and is not an official report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Opinions and statements included in this material are solely those of the individual authors. They have not been verified as accurate, nor do they necessarily represent the views of other workshop participants, the planning committee, or the Academies.