Food security issues also coincide with food safety and food labeling concerns. Currently a global treaty, the BioSafety Protocol, regulates the trade of GMOs. The EU currently requires all GMO foods to be labeled, whereas the US does not require transparent labeling of GMO foods. Since there are still questions regarding the safety and risks associated with GMO foods, some believe the public should have the freedom to choose and know what they are eating and require all GMO products to be labeled.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) leads international efforts to defeat hunger and provides a neutral forum where nations meet as equals to negotiate agreements and debate food policy and the regulation of agriculture. According to Dr. Samuel Jutzi, director of FAO’s animal production and health division, lobbying by “powerful” big food corporations has stopped reforms that would improve human health and the environment. The “real, true issues are not being addressed by the political process because of the influence of lobbyists, of the true powerful entities”, he said, speaking at the Compassion in World Farming annual forum.
For example, recent proposals for a voluntary code of conduct for livestock industry that would have provided incentives for improving standards for health, and environmental regulations, such as the number of animals an area of land can support without long-term damage, were successfully defeated due to large food company pressures.
Agriculture imposes external costs upon society through pesticides, nutrient runoff, excessive water usage, and assorted other problems. A 2005 analysis of these costs in the USA concluded that cropland imposes approximately $5 to 16 billion ($30 to $96 per hectare), while livestock production imposes $714 million. This study concluded that more should be done to internalize external costs, and did not include subsidies in their analysis but noted that subsidies also influence the cost of agriculture to society. The study focused on purely fiscal impacts. The 2000 review included reported pesticide poisonings but did not include speculative chronic effects of pesticides, and the 2004 review relied on a 1992 estimate of the total impact of pesticides, thus major problems and issues for the livestock industry.
Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of withdrawals of freshwater resources. However, increasing pressure being placed on water resources by industry, cities and the involving biofuels industry means that water scarcity is increasing and agriculture is facing the challenge of producing more food for the world’s growing population with fewer water resources. Scientists are also realizing that waster resources need to be allocated to maintain natural environmental services, such as protection towns from flooding, cleaning ecosystems and supporting fish stocks. In the book OUT OF WATER: FROM ABUNDANCE TO SCARCITY AND HOW TO SOLVE THE WORLD’S WATER PROBLEMS, authors Colin Chartres and Samyukta Varma of the International Water Management Institute lay down a six point plan of action for addressing the global challenge of producing sufficient food for the world with dwindling water resources. One of the actions they say is required is to ensure all water systems, such as lakes and rivers, have water allocated to environmental flow.
A key player who is credited to saving billions of lives because of this revolutionary work in developing new agricultural techniques is Norman Borlaug. His transformative work brought high-yield crop varieties to developing countries and earned him an unofficial title as the father of the Green Revolution.