Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Please define food insecurity...

Short Response Paper to
Food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition:
necessary policy and technology changes

            The article, Food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition: necessary policy and technology changes, by Joachim von Braun, aims to bring awareness of the huge food insecurity problems of the world, and inform his audience of how a strategic agenda incorporating technology, policy, and science could help these issues. In his article, Braun concludes, promoting ‘pro-poor agricultural growth’, reducing extreme market volatility, and expanding social protection and child nutrition action, could potentially end food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition. Worldwide inequalities such as these, according to Braun, who works for the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn, Germany, are “pressing global problems that despite differences in food production, systems, cultural values and economic conditions are not acceptable under any ethical principals”.   
            In support of Braun’s idea that more spending on agriculture research and development (R&D) is among the most efficient type of investment for stimulating growth and diminishing poverty, Braun uses the plant-breeding program, the Center of the Consultative Group on International agricultural Research (CGIAR), as an example. CGIAR, as stated in Braun’s article, is said to have ‘developed more than 800 improved crop varieties in the past forty years’.  
            Braun also uses historical examples—the Green Revolution that occurred in the 60s and 70s in Asia—as evidence that biotechnology, biofortification, and nanotechnology have the potential to work today the way agricultural productivity, enhancing food quality, and nutritional value goals worked for Asia.
            Within this article, Braun claims hikes in food prices need to be better minimized in order to prevent the health and economic consequences they cause. Such costs include inadequate food access and poor diet. These are lifelong consequences, ‘for the individuals as well as the society’.  In support of this conclusion, Braun cites a 2008 Lancet article that shows men who “benefited from a randomize nutrition intervention when they were young children earned wages that were 50% higher than those of nonparticipants three decades later.”
            In my opinion, Braun’s first paragraph is brilliant! Immediately upon reading his piece, the author makes it clear that he knows, in policy and in the public health field, both government and NGOs need to work together in order to combat poverty. Despite religious and political affiliations, Braun wants advocates of public health to come together and focus on their common goals. I found the author’s tone and words in this particular section of the article very neutral and even convincing, that perhaps all organizations can and will one day successfully work together.
            I liked that Braun opened up his article with this point too, rather that just throwing it in at the end of his piece, he immediately begins recognizing and spreading the message of how important leadership and teamwork are when fighting for the health of the public. I couldn’t agree more with Braun’s following statement, “None of the global religious congregations can effectively address the hunger problem alone, and synchronized actions are needed on the issue of fighting hunger and advancing food security globally.” I also really appreciate Braun’s mature and humble perspective.
            On page two, Braun states, “There is only about 12% or less of available arable land which is not presently forested or subject to erosion and desertification. The area of land in farm production could in principal be doubled, but only by massive destruction of forests and loss of biodiversity and carbon sequestration capacity.” I think this quote is interesting, and while I have no doubt land on Earth is scarce, and that such a perspective of land is very important, Braun does not list a source for this statistical claims, and I therefore find it questionable.
            Another quote from Braun’s article that I found hard to agree with was when he talked about how precaution is usually the motivation for activism against genetically modified organisms, but then states, “However, a deeper look into the issue reveals that is predominantly an issue of preference.” I think precaution and preference are hard motives to distinguish from one another in general, and also almost impossible to measure within an activists mindset.
            On page two of Braun’s article he also discusses the disadvantages of already poor people and the middle class when food prices are raised. Braun says, “The decline in investments leading to cuts in agriculture supply seem to be stronger than the demand decline due to the recession. These trends might soon put again strong upward pressure on food prices combined with increases price volatility.” Although I understand Braun is talking here about the basic economics that is going on in terms of the global food supply, I do not understand the trends Braun describes in his article, and I find this section confusing.
            I also did not understand the use of the word ‘dogma’ in Braun’s explanation of how he believes an ‘examination of the rationality of consumer preferences and improved information for customers’ should be preformed. Or the use of the word ‘reconciled’, when Braun claims, “the formulation of global policy and technology promotion strategies, the different innovation needs and risk preferences of poor and rich need to be reconciled.”
            Overall, Braun’s attitude and suggestions are very well formulated and presented in his article. With the use of the author’s suggested strategic agenda, and the use of three different interlinked approaches, including development, charity, and a rights-based approach, the world can better eradicate food insecurity and malnutrition; however, we must all remember to work together.

Sources Cited:
Braun, von Joachim. (2010). Food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition: necessary policy and technology changes. Journal of New Biotechnology, 27 (issue number 5).