x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

World leaders call for change to tackle food security at Dubai summit

The world must find a better way to distribute food for a fast-growing population, ministers from around the world said at the World Food Security Summit in Dubai.

DUBAI // Ministers from around the world called for improvement in the global distribution of food to be able to feed an expected nine billion people by 2050.

Education, fewer trade barriers, science-based regulations and technology transfer were some of the key areas they said required urgent attention to reduce malnutrition and meet future food demands.

“Science and innovation will make sure we can feed the world in the future,” said Peter Walsh, Australia’s minister for agriculture and food security and minister for water for the State of Victoria. “We will invest in science and its application on farms to double our production by 2030.”

Lyle Stewart, Canada’s minister of agriculture in Saskatchewan, said it was vital to have science-based regulations. “We can all agree that global food security is dependent on successful trade among countries,” he said. “They’re necessary to ensure that we’re not limited in the tools we use to attain global food security as our population grows. So we need to establish reasonable, low-level policies for genetically modified organisms. Policies that restrict the movement of proven safe goods are misguided so we need to cross these barriers if we’re serious about food security.”

He said all the science-based tools at our disposal would be needed to feed a hungry world. “We’re focused on producing bigger and healthier crops to meet the demand from across the globe,” Mr Stewart said. “We will continue to invest in research and it’s vital that we take this opportunity to discuss these issues and work collaboratively towards these solutions.”

Hector Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister, said the main problem lay in the distribution of food. “We need to put an end to hunger in the world,” he said. “We must be conscious that hunger in the world is a distribution problem.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s latest data, 842 million people – about one in eight of the world’s population – suffer from chronic hunger.

“This situation is not explained by a quantitative deficit in food production, since the FAO estimates that the quantity of food produced is equivalent to one and a half what is needed to satisfy the global population demand,” Mr Timerman said. “Regulating the price of food is not the right approach to fighting hunger. We need to regulate the functioning of large corporations that make profits at the expense of farmers.”

Lifting obstructive trade barriers was also said to be crucial. “We’re seeing more and more countries who are applying trade restrictions like environmental barriers and animal wellbeing restrictions,” he said. “So sometimes, less developed countries cannot start thinking about competing with all this.”

George Eustice, the British parliamentary under secretary of state for farming, food and marine environment, said export bans and tariffs led to greater volatility and undermined food security.

cmalek@thenational.ae