Advances in Food Security and Sustainability

advance-in-food-securityThe first volume of Advances in Food Security and Sustainability has been released. I have contributed a chapter on the post-political condition and global food security governance.


Advances in Food Security and Sustainability takes a scientific look at the challenges, constraints, and solutions necessary to maintain a healthy and accessible food supply in different communities around the world. The series addresses a wide range of issues related to the principles and practices of food sustainability and security, exploring challenges related to protecting environmental resources while meeting human nutritional requirements.

Key Features

  • Contains expertise from leading contributions on the topics discussed
  • Covers a vast array of subjects relating to food security and sustainability

Table of Contents

  1. Advances in Food Security and Sustainability in South Africa
    S. Drimie and L. Pereira
  2. Analyzing the Adoption of Technology, Yield Gaps and Profitability of Major Food Grain Crops in West Bengal
    D. Mondal and C. Maji
  3. Potential of Public Purchases as Markets for Family Farming: An Analysis of Brazilian School Feeding Program Between 2011-2014
    S. Schneider, V.F. Thies, C. Grisa and W. Belik
  4. UK Horticulture Production and National Dietary Guidelines: Meeting the Gap
    V. Schoen and T. Lang
  5. Governing in a Post-Political Era: Civil Society Participation for Improved Food Security Governance
    J. Duncan

This book is VERY expensive, so I wont encourage you to buy it, instead, you could suggest your library purchase it!

Here is a short summary of my chapter.

The starting assumption of this chapter is that the governance of food security and governance more broadly, has taken on postpolitical characteristics that serve to hinder rather than advance the goals of ending hunger and ensuring the right to food for all. Conversely, meaningful participation of a diverse range of actors, particularly from civil society organizations (CSOs), are seeking to actively repoliticize the governance of food security at the global level with important implications for policy outcome, policy implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. In what follows, the postpolitical condition is described, with focus on three specific characteristics: increased technocratic processes; the push for consensus; and the embedded nature of neoliberalism.

The case of the reformed UN’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is then presented as a clear example of a policy-making forum where food security policies are being repoliticized with important implications. Attention is particularly paid to the role of CSOs as key actors working to repoliticize global food security governance. The chapter concludes with reflections on the potential of scaling up the model of the CFS to other intergovernmental organizations, and how the Committee is positioned with respect to Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

(Duncan. 2016. 138-9)

The unspoken words


Wageningen University student, Jesse Opdam, has written a post about the importance of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to address emerging issues.

microphone-and-handSometimes the words we leave unspoken are the most important ones, especially during policy negotiations where the political stakes are high. A lot of issues regarding food and nutrition have been addressed this week. It is simply impossible to address every single issue regarding food security within one week.

But what about sudden important (urgent) issues? Should the CFS not address them? This question was answered by Chair H.E. Amira Gornass with the following words: “I think CFS should be open to emerging issues”. And in my opinion, she is completely right. If the CFS does not address urgent issues on time, or before other food security platforms do, the CFS will lose its relevance. Continue reading “The unspoken words”

“It’s like saying that milk is made from grass”

This post was written by Josh Geuze, an MSc student in International Development at Wageningen University.

blog-1-afbeeldingForget all the empty promises, the real problems that need to be addressed are being carefully kept off the table by the CFS.

To many people it will not come as a surprise to hear that capacity exists to create our own DNA codes. Current technologies offer us the opportunity to take out the DNA code of a cell and insert a completely new one. By using computer programs, it is possible to design a new DNA code. This code is printed and implemented in an emptied cell. This process is called synthetic biology.

The range of opportunities this creates is endless. It is even possible to synthetically print out from scratch all the DNA of a living organism. Craig Venter, an American biotechnologist, succeeded in creating a microbe completely consisting of machine-created DNA. He called this “the first self-replicating species on the planet whose parent is a computer”.

To some this might sound alarming, others will see the potential. The question is, why should we bother?

Continue reading ““It’s like saying that milk is made from grass””

What is on the menu? The New Nordic Diet

Myriam Welvaert, a Wageningen University student who is participating in the CFS as a social media reporter, has written a new blog post on the New Nordic diet.Here is what she had to say.

A healthy diet is a sustainable diet and the New Nordic Diet may just be the answer to some of the world’s food ills, according to experts in public health nutrition.

“Many countries have developed dietary guidelines. But there is now increased recognition that sustainability needs also be part of those,” Dr. Liv Elin Torheim, Professor in Public Health Nutrition at Oslo and Akershus University College, told those at the side event “Ensuring nutritious diets in a climate constrained world” at the 43rd Committee on World Food Security (CFS43).  These national dietary guidelines should not only recommend what to eat, but how food should be produced. They should be developed in each country.

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions in food production we have to make diets more sustainable. But many countries do not have national, official dietary guidelines, especially lower-income countries. Of those countries that do have national dietary guidelines, only a handful include environmental sustainability: Germany, Sweden, Qatar and Brazil.  These countries promote a diet and food system that is healthy and sustainable and they all emphasise the benefits of plant-based diets for the environment and for health.

What is a sustainable healthy diet? What is healthy goes hand in hand with what is sustainable. That means a diet including fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains and limited amounts of food high in fat and sugar.

The New Nordic Diet represents such a diet, according to Dr. Susanne Gjedsted Bügel, Professor of Human Nutrition at the University of Copenhagen. Developed in 2004 in Copenhagen, the Diet integrates cuisines from the five Nordic countries. It consist of more fish and seasonal vegetables and fruit. It contains low fat, less meat and sweets, and avoids processed food. This diet seems to be healthier. It  features food that is locally and organically produced.

The New Nordic Diet is a prototype of health, food culture palatability and takes environmental issues into account. This diet could be applied in any region in the world according to Dr. Gjedsted Bügel.

So, it’s time for action. All stages of food production need to address these aspects of health and sustainability. Only then will this lead to relative changes in food consumption and production. So can you imagine a world where the Nordic diet is on every restaurant menu?

Curious about other side events taking place at the CFS? Check out the events blog.

Photo Credit: Chuttersnap on Unsplash


Fundamental but still contentious: Right to Food at the CFS

This blog was originally posted here on the Event Blog of the Committee on World Food Security. It was written by Nadia Lambek and Jessica Duncan.

CFS in action (photo by X. Jiang)
CFS42 (photo by X. Jiang)

When the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) reformed in 2009 it identified the promotion of the right to food as one of its goals. This was an important development, as recognizing human rights is fundamental to achieving food security.


Despite this development, however, the issue of human rights is still contentious within the CFS. Participants continue to clash over whether to include human rights in the CFS’s outputs and on whether or not to adopt a rights-based perspective in making policy recommendations.

Observers attending the first plenary session of the CFS might have been surprised to see that very few governments chose to mention human rights and the right to food in their opening addresses.  Indeed, these were only mentioned a handful of times and only by a few players, such as the Civil Society Mechanism, the Chair and a few countries, including Venezuela, Brazil and Norway.

But what do we mean by the right to food? What are the implications of a rights-based approach to food policy? And why is it so contentious?

What is the right to food?

The right to food is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (art. 25), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 11) and a myriad of other international agreements.  The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights identifies the main principles of the right to food in General Comment No. 12.

Tlarge_vgrtf_enhe right to food is generally understood as the right to feed oneself with dignity. The United Nations has defined the right to food as being “realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.”

What are the implications for food policy?

The right to food has many implications for food policy.

First, the right to food requires that states that take account of the most marginalized and vulnerable in society when adopting policy.

Second, the right to food places a number of obligations on states. It requires that states:

  • Respect the right to food (the obligation not to take measures that harm access to food);
  • Protect the right to food (the obligation to take measures to ensure third parties do not harm access to food); and,
  •  Fulfill the right to food (the obligation to both proactively engage in activities to strengthen access to food and to provide food when an individual or group is unable to access adequate food alone).

These obligations should be adopted into law, but they should also guide and underscore all food policy. Individuals and groups should be able to hold states accountable when they fail to meet these obligations.

Third, the right to food requires that states “take steps to achieve progressively the full realization of the right to adequate food”. States are obliged to take all necessary steps to the maximum of their available resources to ensuring the right to food. Food policies are tools states can use to progressively realize this right.

So why is the right to food contentious?

The right to food is contentious because it requires states to take a number of steps that will fundamentally transform how they currently address food security, and food policy more broadly. States are also concerned they will be held accountable for failing to meet these obligations. For these reasons, states resist including the right to food in the CFS outputs.

Will the right to food continue to be contentious at CFS43? Watch this space…

Want to know more about the right to food?

Check out the following:


For a “deep dive” into the issue, see this super article by Nadia Lambek and Priscilla Claeys:  Institutionalizing a Fully Realized Right to Food: Progress, Limitations, and Lessons Learned from Emerging Alternative Policy Models


5 things you need to know about the CFS


This week I am teaming up with Nadia Lambek to research, reflect and write about the CFS. 

cfs43_150_enIn our conversations with people over the last few days (well actually, the last 6 years), we have been asked a lot of questions about the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), and often, the questions are the same.

To save you, and us, some time, we have identified the top 5 questions we get about the CFS and provided our answers below. Continue reading “5 things you need to know about the CFS”

Social Media Reporting from the CFS

2163451008_4c2f0cbfe5_oThis weekend I am attending a social media bootcamp (#CFS43SMB, for those of you on twitter) hosted by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and the Global Forum for Agriculture Research. (GFAR).

We will be learning about the art of social media, and for the next week we will be writing and publishing.  There are over 30 people signed up for this training, representing a very wide range of organisations and countries: universities (students and faculty), research institutes, private sector, social enterprises, and international organization  such as YPARD, Bioversity.

Some students from Wageningen University have joined me and will be posting their blogs here. You can read about those students here.