Shocks and Disruptions – The Relationship Between Food Security and National Security

By George Grant

Food is one of mankind’s most basic needs, and inadequate provision is a tragedy for hundreds of millions of people living in the developing world. Yet the importance of the world’s food supply extends far beyond the threat of shortages, hunger and poverty. The availability and cost of food affects many areas of domestic policy, as well as national and international security.

In what the Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP describes as a “wide-ranging and comprehensive report” George Grant seeks to address the various and acute challenges stemming from a food supply chain under increasing pressure. Over the next four decades, the world’s population is expected to expand by some two billion people, a rise of more than 140,000 people a day. In order to feed this population, the world will have to produce the additional food on around the same amount of land as now, using proportionally less water, and with greater care for the environment.

Unfortunately, much of the Western world has still not woken up to the severity of this challenge. We have seen two major food price spikes since 2008 alone, but both policymakers and the public continue to operate on the assumption that cheap food in abundance is more or less something that UK consumers can take for granted.

Consequently, this report endeavours to explain why food security is about much more than ensuring that the world’s poorest have enough to eat, critical though that challenge is. The report joins the dots between food security and a range of critical issues about which policymakers not ordinarily concerned with food security take a professional interest. These include: the impact of rising food prices on UK and global economic growth; the interrelationship between food insecurity, conflict and revolution; and the UK’s own food chain resilience. The report also explains how EU policy on issues such as biofuels, crop protection products and GM foods is impacting on many millions of people living well beyond Europe’s borders.

  • The UK government currently retains no food reserves whatsoever. Overall reserves within the UK run to barely 10 days, consisting of whatever food remains unused within the food-chain at a given moment.
  • Regional food security was a contributory factor in NATO’s intervention in Libya.
  • Food price inflation represents a real threat both to the global economic recovery and that of the United Kingdom.
  • The drive to reduce/eliminate agricultural pesticides and increase biofuel production in the West could well be having knock-on effects that are resulting in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people going hungry in the developing world.
  • Since 2008, food insecurity has led to the fall of two governments, in Haiti and Madagascar, and continues to generate brutal conflict in Sudan that has left hundreds of thousands dead.

Download the full report


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