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A Sustainability Challenge: Food Security for All

Workshop 1:
Measuring Food Insecurity and Assessing the Sustainability of Global Food Systems
Keck Center of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
 Fifth Street NW, Room 201
Washington, DC
February 16-17, 2011


The overarching objective of the workshop was to contribute to the global effort towards sustainable food security through the improvement of indicators used to assess and monitor progress. More specific objectives were:

  • To help establish the dimensions of the sustainable food security challenge
  • To review commonly used indicators from the point of view of: the data used (quality, frequency, consistency), construction of the metric/indicator and analyze methodological strengths and weaknesses
  • To examine current uses and misuses of the indicators
  • To identify priorities for improving existing processes and developing better data and indicators to meet the needs of users.
  • To explore possible peer review mechanisms for monitoring and suggesting improvements to the metrics/indicators and promote their proper use for policies and programs.


The workshop brought together a small group of experts including those responsible for key indicators of food security, key critics of those metrics, a number users and members of the Academies’ committee. Participants were expected to review existing metrics, analyze plans for revision, propose directions for revision, and to consider whether or not a peer review mechanism might be useful. Background papers, briefing notes, and presentations reviewed and synthesized the key data and estimation problems in assessing food security and malnutrition, poverty and environmental sustainability. Members of the planning committee will prepare a workshop report. 


Agenda and presentations:                                                                                                                                          


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

8:00 AM     Breakfast available

8:30 AM     Welcome and Introduction
                   Per Pinstrup Andersen, Cornell University, Committee Chair

8:45 AM     Workshop Overview
                   Kostas Stamoulis, FAO


9:00 AM     What Do We Really Know? --- Metrics for Food Insecurity and Malnutrition
                    Hartwig de Haen, Former FAO Assistant Director-General and Stephan Klasen, University of Göttingen

Numerous statistics are published reporting on world hunger and malnutrition conditions. Do we really know how many hungry people are in the world and in each country? Do we know how many under and over nourished children and adults exist world wide and in each country? How good have the data been projecting future changes?

9:45 AM     Questions for Clarification

10:00 AM   BREAK

10:15 AM   Hunger and Malnutrition (Panel Discussion)
                    Moderator: Marie Ruel, International Food Policy Research Institute

In this session, those knowledgeable about the construction of food consumption indices and outcome measures presented what they perceived to be their major strengths and weaknesses (including data used), plans for revision, and uses and misuses. 

                   A. Food Consumption Indicators
                        o FAO Undernourishment IndicatorPietro Gennari, FAO
                        o FAO Undernourishment Indicator, Benjamin Senauer, University of Minnesota 

                   B. Outcome Indicators
                        o Measures of Malnutrition, Lynnette Neufeld, Micronutrient Initiative 
                        o Measures of Overnutrition / Obesity, Ricardo Uauy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

11:30 AM   General Discussion: How Indicators are Used and Needs of National Decision-Makers
                    Moderator: Marie Ruel, International Food Policy Research Institute 
                         o Shahla Shapouri, U.S. Department of Agriculture
                         o Adelheid Onyango, World Health Organization

12:15 PM   LUNCH


1:15 PM      Measures of National and Global Poverty and Their Use in Policy Making
                     Martin Ravallion, The World Bank 

Presentation on measures of global poverty and food access: Advantages, shortcomings, and what should they be used for.

1:45 PM      Questions for Clarification

2:00 PM      An Alternative Poverty Indicator
                     James Foster, The George Washington University (Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative)

2:15 PM      Panel Discussion (Martin Ravallion, James Foster and Stephan Klasen)
                     Moderator: Marco Ferroni, The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

Panel focused on the way forward for the measurement of poverty and inequality and how to assure that measures are useful for policy makers.

2:30 PM      General Discussion on Indicators for Hunger, Malnutrition, and Poverty
                     Moderator: Marco Ferroni, The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

  • How important are global numbers for hunger, malnutrion and poverty? For whom? 
  • Do measures of poverty, food security, and malnutrition move in the same direction? If not why not? Is this a problem with the measures or does it highlight more complex issues? 
  • Are numbers comparable between countries and overtime? 
  • What information do decision-makers really need and for what?

3:15 PM      BREAK


3:30 PM      Introductory Comments: Natural Resources and Agricultural Productivity
                     Emmy Simmons, U.S. Agency for International Development (ret.)

3:45 PM      Measuring Productivity and Natural Assets (Panel Discussion 1) 
                     Moderator: Philip Pardey, University of Minnesota 

Panel examined measures of agricultural productivity and natural resource use with regard to sustainable food security.
                    o Measures and Meaning of Agricultural Productivity
                        Richard Perrin, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
                    o Expanding Agricultural Productivity Measures and Linking to Eco-System Services--A Spatially Explicit Approach
                        Stanley Wood, IFPRI 
                    o Measuring and Valuing Natural Assets
                        Steve Polasky, University of Minnesota 
                    o Water, Agricultural Productivity and Environmental/Health Services
                        Peter McCornick, Duke University

4:45 PM      General Discussion on Measuring Productivity and Natural Assets
                     Moderator: Philip Pardey, University of Minnesota

5:00 PM      ADJOURN

6:00 PM      Working Dinner for Steering Committee and Invited Guests 
                     Brief Remarks: Emmy Simmons, U.S. Agency for International Development (ret.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

8:00 AM      Breakfast available

8:30 AM      Review of Day One and Welcome to Day Two
                    Per Pinstrup Andersen, Cornell University, Committee Chair

8:45 AM      Composite Indicators for Sustainable Production (Panel Discussion 2)
                    Moderator: Jennifer Shaw, Syngenta

Panel looked at composite indicators for sustainable production and natural resource use and how they could be used practically to promote sustainable practices and inform consumers and policy maker.

                     o Overview of Metrics and Indicators, Different Approaches, Strengths and Weaknesses
                         Greg Thoma, University of Arkansas – The Sustainability Consortium work
                     o Industry Perspective on Use of Metrics
                         Jennifer Shaw, Syngenta 
                     o Experience on Gathering Meaningful Data for Life Cycle Analyses
                         Dirk Voeste, BASF

9:45 AM       BREAK

10:00 AM     Food Security and the Environment (Panel Discussion 3)
                      Moderator: Jason Clay, The World Wildlife Fund, “Feeding 9 Billion and Maintaining the Planet”

Panel discussed plausible trajectories for sustainably increasing food supplies and identify data that are available and needed to understand possibilities and trade-offs. 

                    o Food Security and Land Cropping Potential
                        Jon Foley, University of Minnesota
                    o Contribution of Agriculture to Climate Change and Potential for Mitigating the Effects of Climate Change
                        Paul Vlek, University of Bonn (videoconference)
                    o Animal Protein Production Impacts and Trends
                       Jude Capper, Washington State University (teleconference)

11:00 AM     General Discussion on Indicators for Natural Resources and Agricultural Productivity
                      Moderator: Jason Clay, The World Wildlife Fund

11:30 AM      LUNCH


12:30 PM      A Proposal 
                       Prabhu Pingali, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (videoconference)

12:45 PM      Breakout Discussions: The Way Forward 
                       Group 1: Hunger and Malnutrition, Poverty (Kostas Stamoulis)
                       Group 2: Natural Resources and Agricultural Productivity (Phil Pardey)

Each breakout group of participants were asked to answer the set of questions based on their expertise and information presented during the workshop’s earlier sessions. 

  • Meeting the challenge—providing the right data and information and the right institutional and organizational system. 
  • How can existing and new data collection efforts be developed to efficiently provide needed information? 
  • What additional research is needed to inform processes and to develop more appropriate indicators? 
  • What institutional arrangements are needed?

1:30 PM       Feedback from Breakout Groups
                      Per Pinstrup Andersen, Cornell University, Committee Chair

2:00 PM       General Discussion – Key Recommendations
                      Per Pinstrup Andersen, Cornell University, Committee Chair

2:45 PM       Wrap Up and Summary
                      Per Pinstrup Andersen, Cornell University, Committee Chair

3:00 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.