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Coming to terms with terminology

The definition of ‘food security’ has evolved considerably over time and additional terminology and concepts, including ‘nutrition security’, ‘food security and nutrition’ and ‘food and nutrition security’ have emerged over the past few decades. Each of these terms has varying connotations. While this signals a much more complex understanding of the interlinkages between food security and adequate nutrition, the lack of agreement on the use of terms often creates confusion, and can hold back meaningful discussions on how best to address concerns of food insecurity and malnutrition.

The 37th Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) called on ‘the CFS Bureau, in consultation with its Advisory Group and joint Secretariat, as well as with relevant international organizations, in particular World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to propose options on the meaning and different uses, if any, of the terms “Food Security”, “Food Security and Nutrition”, “Food and Nutrition Security” and “Nutrition Security” to the CFS Session for the standardization of the official terminology that the Committee should use . (CFS37 Final Report, 2011).

As the CFS continues to build its reputation as the foremost inclusive intergovernmental and international platform on food security and nutrition related issues, it is of particular importance that it has a common and full understanding and appreciation of key terms and their implications for the work of the Committee and its constituents.

The UNSCN Secretariat together with the CFS Secretariat is guiding the process of the CFS Task Team on Terminology to help ensure that conceptual and programmatic bridges are made between food security and nutrition and evolve in a complementary and mutually reinforcing manner. The Task Team elaborated the draft document ‘Coming to terms with terminology’ through a consultative process.

The paper proposes to move towards the more inclusive terminology food and nutrition security in order to better reflect the conceptual linkages between food security and nutrition security.

What are your views on this and the new proposed definition of food and nutrition security?
Your contributions will be consolidated and forwarded to the CFS Task Team as the common voice of the food security community at large. A revised version of the document will then be presented at the next joint Advisory Group and Bureau meeting in September, and it is anticipated that the final version will be presented at the CFS 39 Annual Session in October 2012.

We are looking forward to your comments

CFS Secretariat

This discussion is now closed. Please contact for any further information.

Mr. Subhash Mehta Devarao Shivaram Trust, India

The haves, can afford to be rude, arrogant, etc., about the resources they have accumulated and deposited in banks, mostly meant for the sustainability of the poor producers(have nots), used for trade and or FDI, take over and making the smallholder producers slaves on their own lands and to produce high cost mono crops to serve the commodity boards, thus continuing to keep them hungry, malnutrition, poor, deep in debt and ultimately forcing them to commit suicide.
Public funds are meant for public good to meet the needs of the resource poor smallholder producers to set up and staff their producer org/ company (PC) intervention to provide services for ‘things that work’:

• analysis of and filling gaps in basic knowledge (Ken Cassman),
• agricultural research & education systems (ARES) to meet the needs of the rural poor
• a bottom up approach, IIED’s rural ‘Jury’ and involving all stakeholders
• following low cost sustainable agriculture of the area to produce nutritious food
• clearer measures for assessing needs and success,
• smallholder friendly IAR4D that works successfully and in the local area,
• no more ‘demonstration and pilot projects’ by ARES,
• connecting technological improvements to real improvement,
• innovative solutions to problems, rather than develop solutions decided in advance,
• ARES moving towards cross-disciplinary smallholder friendly integrated agriculture
• Human(GP/ MBAs in agriculture) and institutional (PCs) capacity development
• producing to meet the communities nutritious food needs and at PC gate price.
• evidence based programming at scale to improve nutritious food production,
• value addition to increase shelf life of produce to mitigate post harvest losses
• improving purchasing power, net incomes, livelihoods and long term sustainability,
• reducing hunger, malnutrition, poverty, suicides and the effect of climate change
• enabling IAR4D in the short time, all stakeholders as equal partners


Christian Häberli World Trade Institute, Switzerland
Christian Häberli

Sorry for being rude. But as we all know food security is not achievable without trade and (in many cases foreign) direct investment, and appropriate rules thereon. The fact alone that today we have a big gap in this field is enough reason for concern, and work. But the fact that the whole Draft circulated here does not even once mention trade and FDI should ring an alarm bell to the whole food security community.
Please keep working - or grow enough cucumbers in your own backyards for ensuring food sovereignty!

Mr. Subhash Mehta Devarao Shivaram Trust, India

Dear Colleagues,

I agree with Lenox’s emphasis on ‘fresh’, as is nutritious food from safe, quality, fresh agricultural produce as applicable to the local soil and agro climatic conditions of each area, as the active ingredients of agriculture produce are balanced by the 100’s of secondary metabolites. Instead we have today a flourishing nutraceuticals industry where the active ingredients isolated from agricultural produce is converted into molecules and produced in chemical plants and marketted as food supplements, making up for the unsafe, poor quality conventional agriculture produce of today.

FAO as a premier multilateral UN organization for agriculture must ensure that all Governments focus on meeting the nutrition needs is made available from safe, quality integrated agriculture of the local areas globally.


Lennox Lampkin SVG Chamber of Agriculture and Nutrition Inc., Saint Vincent and the ...
Lennox Lampkin

Bearing in mind that contaminated food cannot be considered nutritious we will be forced to review our definition of food and the manner in which same is consumed if we move the discussion from Food to Nutrition Security. There should also be an emphasis on FRESH unadulterated nutrition and a departure from increased production by any means necessary. This will also help to reduce our collective carbon footprint as local production will then be a priority.

Indeed, such a review would also help to address the issue of climate change while boosting rural development as less food will be unnecessarily processed, stored and transported across the globe!

Lennox Lampkin SVG Chamber of Agriculture and Nutrition Inc., Saint Vincent and the ...
Lennox Lampkin

It is my view that "Food Security" as is generally presented (lack of food or access to food)is probably one of the most misguided myths of our time... The real Food Security issues should be dealing with food contamination both accidental and deliberate and not with the belly full of unwholesome meals that lack the nutritional balance to keep us healthy!

Hence, the term food security as is presented should really be redefined as Nutrition Security and Food Sovereignty as that more aptly fits the challenges of peoples around the globe. If Nutrition is secure then we need not deal with food being secure as that will be adequately addressed. On the other hand dealing with secure food as we know it can lead to massive mal-nutrition, dependence and ultimately a global epidemic of food and lifestyle related diseases.

Mr. Subhash Mehta Devarao Shivaram Trust, India

Dear colleagues,
I have read with interest the contributions on the 'terminology' and feel strongly that it is important to ensure in the definition, the fact that the source of the nutrition has to be mostly from agriculture, if we are to mitigate malnutrition among the rural and urban poor. Thus, the CFS paper needs to move towards more inclusive terminology, eg.,'nutritious food security’, in order to better reflect the conceptual linkages between agriculture, nutrition and food, to address the rampant malnutrition among the smallholder family producers, being the majority population of developing countries.

You will agree that the concerns of food insecurity and malnutrition cannot be addressed just by a definition, “Food and Nutrition Security”, without ensuring that conceptual and programmatic bridges are retained between agriculture and nutrition, say, ‘Nutritious Food Security’.


Lo Scalzo Vincenzo AgoràAmbrosiana, Italy
Lo Scalzo Vincenzo

Dear Moderator,

Thanks for the update

Due to its universal importance, I would like to call for the addition of WATER to the definitions contained in the document.  This inclusion should be made as straightforward as possible as the role of water in ensuring food and nutrition security should be easy to understand.

V Lo Scalzo - AA

Dr Stephen O. Adejoro Zartech ltd, Nigeria
Dr Stephen O. Adejoro

My name is Dr Stephen Adejoro of Zartech Limited Nigeria, and I wish to contribute to the choice of appropriate terminology on the definition of FOOD SECURITY.

I believe that any acceptable definition must emphasize the word SECURITY as the major objective for hunger alleviation and healthy food supply for the World population

The term SECURITY must be subconsciously understood by consumers , Government and NGO policies makers as a state of  real confidence without fear and anxiety, on an assurance for a steady and  basic supply of food, that is regularly available ,affordable , safe and of good quality to guarantee minimum nutritional requirement for consumers

Whereas the word FOOD  must recognize availability, affordability and food safety. The SECURIY term of the terminology, must recognize that nutritional standard for healthy body system must be part and parcel of an acceptable terminology

So my choice of an appropriate terminology is FOOD SECURITY AND NUTRITION


Dr Stephen Adejoro
Head of Research &Marketing
Zartech Limited

Mahmud Duwayri University of Jordan, Jordan
Mahmud  Duwayri

I am in full agreement  that term food and nutrition security should be used.

I think that people and governments have become aware to a certain degree about food security but to a lesser degree about nutrition security and thus there is a lot of suffering due to lack of awareness about nutrition security . The use of the  terminology food and nutrition security  should reduce the sufferings of human kind and will guide them to concentrate on quality rather on quantity alone.
Another important point is that we should consider using the proper terminology in the other languages(Arabic for example) which should reflect the same principles and ideas agreed upon in this terminology in the English language.
Kind regards
Mahmud Duwayri, Professor
University of Jordan