Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Food security: Vulnerability despite abundance
July 2007
Marc J Cohen
International Peace Academy

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges the International Peace Academy website as the source of this document:


Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.1 It has three facets: food availability, access to food, and food utilization. The last aspect refers to proper use of food, including adequate nutrition knowledge and practices.The reference to food preferences acknowledges that in extreme circumstances, people may eat otherwise unacceptable foods; however, such circumstances do not represent food security.

Food security is an important component of human security, and is one of the seven pillars of the UN Development Programme’s original concept of human security, along with economic, health, environmental, personal, community, and political security. More recent human security thinking links “freedom from want” and “freedom from fear.” Living in food insecurity is the quintessential state of both want and fear. As US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger put it at the 1974 World Food Conference, ending hunger would mean that “no child will go to bed hungry, no family will fear for its next day’s bread….”

The world has made significant progress against food insecurity over the past 35 years, thanks to investments in agricultural productivity, infrastructure, health, education, and food-related social programs.

However, since 1995, food insecurity has increased in developing countries.With business as usual, there is no chance of meeting the 1996 World Food Summit target of cutting hunger in half from 1990 levels by 2015. Depending on the patterns of global policy, public investment, and institutional development, the prospects for food security may remain dim well beyond that year. This has serious implications for global security, particularly human security.

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