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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Examining the linkages between trade and food security: What is your experience?

Susan Bragdon
Susan BragdonQUNOSwitzerland

Dear Contributors,

Thank you for the thoughtful contributions to this dialogue.   With a couple of exceptions, it seems that most of the contributors are skeptical that a food security strategy, including components that explicitly support small-scale farmers in agro-biodiverse settings, can be made compatible with a global market-based approach to food security (Question 3 of the Topic Note.)

One contributor indicated there is a danger of crop diversity loss if farmers grow crops that are in international demand in order to gain profits.  Another contributor described a food security strategy as described in question 3 and trade rule compatibility as an “oxymoron.”  Another answered the question by stating “It is simply not possible.”

I am wondering if we can dig a bit deeper with some of the suggestions for how a food security strategy that supports small-scale farmers in agro-biodiverse systems can be made compatible with a global market-based approach to food security.

Dr. Claudio Schuftan suggested the need for research that “points towards the provisions that should be included in [trade and investment] agreements to guarantee food security and food sovereignty.”

The question is, what would these provisions need to look like?  How in particular would the biologically diverse systems piece be supported and still be compatible with global market based approach?

Dennis Bennett notes that what is often missing from the trade/food security debates is an understanding of what motivates farmers, including small-scale farmers, to grow specific quantities and types of food. 

Can we explore this a bit more?  Mr. Bennett seems to be focusing on producing a surplus that can then be traded.  He stressed the need to work bottom-up, starting by looking at the local Food Security Value Chain (FSVC), and treating all actors along the value chain with dignity and respect, valuing human rights.

A few of questions arise from Mr. Bennett’s thoughtful presentation. 

How can the FSVC approach address what is grown from a bottom-up perspective (rather than a market demand perspective)?

How is what is grown determined so that diversity, including dietary diversity, is encouraged and how does this approach ensure that food gets to the hungriest regions?

How does the FSVC approach encourage the continuous process of developing and maintaining agriculturally biodiverse systems (one of the components mentioned in question 3)?

Mr. Bennett’s mentions the example of the transformation of agriculture in the mid-west of the United States from 1825-75.   Changes that contributed to the transformation from subsistence to food surplus farming included things like the John Deere plow, the McCormick harvester, the steam-powered grain elevator, the Erie Canal amongst others.  But this transformation also led to a huge decrease in the diversity of what is grown in this same area.

The market-based, traded system created in the US is also resource intensive with negative environmental externalities beyond the loss of biological diversity. 

Can one use the FSVC approach and support small-scale farmers in agro-biodiverse systems?  How is specifically does it do this?

I look forward to our continuing dialogue.

Susan