, Volume 92, Number 6

Tim Benton
Food insecurity occurs when people do not have secure access to food necessary for a healthy life. The food-insecure are typically the poor, and the traditional focus of food insecurity thinking has been the global poor. Increasingly, it is being recognized that in the rich world, food insecurity manifests itself in calorie-rich but nutrient-poor diets, leading to the linkage between poverty, obesity and its associated health problems. Furthermore, the historical link between income and diets, when projected forwards, shows a growth in demand that would be extremely challenging to meet with sustainable production. This is especially true given that emissions from the food system are significant contributors to climate change, perhaps more so than any other sector; and yet, probably less than half the world’s calories are used directly for healthy diets (over half of agricultural production is lost or wasted, fed to animals or consumed in excess of healthy requirements). This review article, of a suite of four books, covers the way the food security argument is framed and how this is changing, food politics and justice and why our food system is as it is. The overall conclusion is that our food system is placing unsustainable demands on the planet, as well as creating injustice and inequity. The ‘productivist paradigm’ of growing ‘ever more, ever more cheaply’ while relying on international commodity trade and markets to solve the distributional issues, is unlikely to create a sustainable, just and food-secure world.

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