Technological Change and Global Food Security

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Introduction

The contemporary world faces significant challenges in terms of food security due to numerous factors. They include a growing population, poverty, conflicts, difficulty in food access, and climate change that leads to insufficient temperature conditions for agriculture, a limited amount of water, and extreme weather conditions. Most researchers of the topic agree that the leading causes of global food insecurity deal with the outcomes of climate change and will be aggravated in the future (Campbell et al., 2016; Dawson, Perryman, & Osborne, 2014; Myers et al., 2017). Food production and consumption are the primary elements of the food market where supply is determined by demand. However, the latest trends in the food market show that due to the growing difficulties of edible material production, the prices for food rapidly grow, thus placing disadvantaged populations in danger of hunger.

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The researchers and policymakers involved in the problem of global food security present numerous perspectives on what the causes of hunger are and how they might be eliminated or mitigated. Technological change is viewed by the majority of researchers as a compelling opportunity to overcome food production obstacles and ensure consistent supply (Osabohien, Osabuohien, & Urhie, 2018; Riches, 2016; Timmer, 2014). However, it is necessary to review the role of market forces in food distribution to validate the application of agricultural technologies on a global scale. As Bliss (2019) claims, the industry of food production and distribution should be controlled by non-market forces with the active inclusion of governmental institutions on both national and international levels. It is vital to analyze the modern food market with acute attention to the factors influencing food security and provide an effective solution to the problem.

Malnutrition is a growing concern of the modern world, which is caused by the exhaustion of natural resources under the influence of climate change. Industrial production and numerous activities in which people engage cause increasing CO2 emission, global warming, natural resources depletion, and reduction of water reserves. Rooting as a problem of particular developing countries where poverty and political instability lead to hunger and cause massive migration in search of a better life, food insecurity becomes an international problem. Therefore, food security and sustainability must be integrated not only in the national policies of separate states but also become an issue of international cooperation.

Moreover, according to reputable resources, by the year 2050, the population of the planet is estimated to reach nine billion people (Osabohien et al., 2018). This number will be the greatest in the history of humanity. Thus, the reserves of primary natural resources, such as arable soil and water, will be insufficient for such a numerous population. In addition, climate change has caused and will continue to cause significant damage to soil quality; the temperature will continue rising, causing draughts and overall unfavorable conditions for agriculture. The researchers agree that under such circumstances, the already observed global food insecurity will aggravate, and the issue of hunger will become the leading concern of humanity (Bliss, 2019; Campbell et al., 2016; Myers et al., 2017; Riches, 2016). Therefore, it is evident that the global community as a whole and separate countries, in particular, need to concentrate not only on the issue of food availability for an increased number of people. They also have to find ways to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change that obstruct achieving food security.

As proposed by international organizations and different policymakers and researchers from both developing and developed countries, technological advancement should be applied to various aspects of the food industry, including its productions, storage, and distribution (Osabohien et al., 2018). In addition, it is imperative to adopt a conceptually new vision of the food industry as a political issue (Riches, 2016). When considering food provision as a manifestation of basic human rights to the relevant environment for a healthy life, governments need to develop special programs meeting the needs of the population. Therefore, technological change will help leverage the factors influencing food security if applied as a non-market tool (Bliss, 2019). The forces of supply and demand that determine the price should not contribute to the overall patterns of food access because malnutrition is primarily a concern of financially disadvantaged populations. With the rise of food insecurity on a global scale, the prices will increase, thus leaving the underprivileged in hunger and making food a benefit of the wealthy.

This paper provides an overview of the factors influencing food security with acute attention paid to the challenges the world faces in this regard and the possible ways of solving the problem. It is argued that food security as a leading concern of the modern global community must be deprived of market forces’ influence. It should be taken to the level of governmental control in order to ensure equality of food production and supply by means of technological innovation. The analysis of evidence, as well as the presentation of the leading views on the issue, is developed on the basis of academic literature retrieved from credible resources.

Theoretical Framework

The overview of the causes of food insecurity and the analysis of the main triggers in the global economic system determining hunger mitigation should be carried out within the approach of problem-solving. The current research paper uses the framework of analysis of causes of the problem, the challenges to food security, and the ways of the problem’s solution. The researchers engaged in the discussion of the topic have utilized other approaches, such as synthesis of evidential data showing the reality of the current situation and its implications in the future (Dawson et al., 2014; Myers et al., 2017). However, there are many scholars who adopt the attitude of problem solution providing specific recommendations concerning the measures to minimize threats and apply innovation (Bliss, 2019; Osabohien et al., 2018; Timmer, 2014). Such an approach is regarded as the most effective one because it allows not only for analyzing the factors but also drawing on the tactics relevant to the realities that the policymakers face.

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The application of the economic model of supply and demand is used to demonstrate its irrelevance in the current food systems. Indeed, the equilibrium of supply and demand leads to the current economies of most countries of the world. According to this theory, the price for certain products or services is defined by the correlation between the availability (or supply) of a product and the desire (or demand) to buy it. According to the supply and demand equilibrium, the price should be set at a point where supply and demand levels are equal. It is evident that the higher the price, the lower the demand. Under the conditions of increasing difficulties in sustaining affordable food, the prices grow rapidly due to the cost of production.

Such a state of affairs leads to reduced demand from the side of underprivileged populations. Moreover, the supply is also obstructed by the difficulties of sustainable products due to climate change impacts. Some endeavors in the sphere of technological advancement application to agriculture have already shown successful results and imply further improvements in this field (Osabohien et al., 2018). Therefore, the economic model of supply and demand does not conform to the needs of the modern population of the world and has to be substituted by alternative forces supported by technological change.

Taking into account the description of the economic model presented above, the research question of the paper is how technological change can ensure food security on a global scale. The hypothesis is that technological advancement in the sphere of agriculture and food production might be effective if the food supply industry is regulated by governmental policies and not by mere market forces of supply and demand. In order to validate this research assumption, one should analyze the evidence and provide a relevant description of the possible ways to reach the solution.

Evidence and Analysis

Main Factors of Food Security

Food security is a broad notion that is defined as “the availability at all times of adequate world supplies of basic food-stuffs” (Dawson et al., 2014, p. 2). There are four main factors identified as the significant influencers of food security. They include staple food availability, the stability of supplies, access to necessary supplies, and biological utilization of food (Dawson et al., 2014). The availability of staple foods is viewed as the continuous access of people to arable land favorable for agriculture and to resources needed to maintain food production. These resources might include water, soil fertilizers, food for cattle, and other important elements.

The stability of supplies is more relevant for those countries which import food due to the unfavorable conditions for agriculture and is determined by the market relations with other states. For this factor to be sufficient, the exporting country needs excessive resources to meet the needs of the domestic market and the export. As for the access to adequate supplies, it is influenced by the prices for food (Dawson et al., 2014). Finally, the biological utilization of food deals with the nutrients as the basic resource for the healthy life of a human. Thus, in order to sustain secure food availability, a series of issues must be met satisfactorily. If all of the listed factors are adequately preserved, the threat of hunger is not an issue for the population. However, if any of these influential determinants are eliminated, the quality of life and the health of people become endangered. As the analysis of the problems obstructing food security in the modern world shows, climate change, increasing population, and growing food prices are the main causes of global hunger.

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Challenges to Food Security

Climate change

The majority of literature covering the issue of food insecurity and global hunger threat stems from the increasing scope of damage caused by climate change. Resulting from intensive human activities in diverse areas of industry and life, numerous destructive impacts on the environment become more evident and irreversible. Greenhouse gas emissions impose air, soil, and water pollution, global warming, and rapid damage to natural resources. Since food production is fundamentally linked to nature, it is only logical that the diminishing quality of soil and climate characteristics will adversely affect the quantity and quality of food. As Campbell et al. (2016) claim, rapid climate change will cause a decrease in global crop production due to the increase in average temperatures and scarcity of water reserves. Indeed, the global temperature of the past decade was “1.0◦C (1.8◦F) warmer than the twentieth-century average” (Myers et al., 2017, p. 261). The concentration of CO2 emissions is estimated to rise and will cause more damage to the global climate, thus imposing a significant threat not only to crops but to other spheres of agriculture too.

Livestock and fisheries will also be impacted by global warming and pollution. Campbell et al. (2016) indicate that the rise of temperature and diminished quality and quantity of feed will reduce the scope of egg, meat, and milk production. Since the state of crops immediately links to the quality of livestock-related products, it is evident that systematic changes are underway, which have to be resolved by the same systematic methods. Moreover, the agricultural system of developing countries significantly depends on human labor. The rise in global temperature and poor nutritious quality of food consumed by the field and farm workers will impose difficulties in preserving adequate work conditions and will ultimately damage food production in such countries (Myers et al., 2017). However, climate change is not the only challenge to food security.

Growing prices

As a product produced for the market, food becomes a strategic element in the economic systems of modern first-world nations. As Bliss (2019) claims, “food is a rival good that political institutions make excludable,” thus imposing inequality in access to edible resources (p. 5). Considering the growing difficulties of producing food of adequate quality in necessary quantities, it is only natural that the price for food will grow. Millions of people across the globe suffer from malnutrition and hunger. Obstructed access to nutritious food on a regular basis in the future will lead to increased levels of diseases and deaths (Myers et al., 2017). However, taking into account the growing number of people inhabiting the planet, the quantity of staple foods as they are available now will not be sufficient for everyone

Therefore, the issue of price growth and increased population will only aggravate the inequality issue in food production and distribution. Under such circumstances, it is evident that the currently established food systems driven by the market forces of supply and demand are irrelevant from a long-term perspective. Alternative methods of food industry management must be researched, analyzed, and implemented to ensure food security for future generations.

The solution to the Problem

Upon incorporating the implications of the challenges to food security, one should provide recommendations for the ways to resolve the problem on a long-term scale. According to Timmer (2014), the current food policy faces four primary objectives. They include enhanced economic growth, “equal distribution of income from that growth,” adequate nutritious characteristics of food, and sustainable availability and fixed prices in food markets (Timmer, 2014, p. 325). Thus, efficiency, welfare, safety, and security of food production will be achieved. It is possible to assume that the way to suffice all these four objectives lies within the two primary directions of action, including non-market food industry development and technological change in agriculture.

Non-market food industry

The global threat of hunger and food insecurity becomes a trigger for immediate action not only in developing countries but also in developed nations. There is a worldwide need to understand hunger “as a political issue” and ensure that the states can “guarantee basic human rights to food” (Riches, 2016, p. 1). The governmental monitoring and control of food production and supply are imperative to ensure equality in nutrient distribution and access to adequate quality and amount of food. According to Riches (2016), growing rates of unemployment and underemployment impose inequality of income rates and the overall quality of life, which includes access to staple foods. Thus, the economic and social rights of many people are violated due to the growing number of vulnerable groups of the population around the world. Hunger is “economically inefficient” and “violates domestic and international human rights obligations of first world nations” (Riches, 2016, p. 1).

It is evident that in the conditions of the modern economic system, “markets allocate food toward money, not hunger” (Bliss, 2019, p. 1). Governments should regulate food prices in order to control food availability. At the same time, it is the obligation of governmental institutions to attract investment and initiate programs for innovation and technology in agriculture as the main contributor in the food industry.

Technological change as a solution

The problem of sustainable harvests and the continuous supply of foods has been an issue for humanity for many years. During recent decades, the industry of food production managed to adopt technological innovations and achieve satisfactory results in the agricultural field. As Myers et al. (2017) state, “despite historic growth in global food demand, rates of undernutrition have fallen” (p. 260). It was possible to achieve due to the implementation of such innovative measures as the development of grain varieties, synthetic pesticides, and fertilizers, as well as the utilization of improved technical equipment for agricultural work (Myers et al., 2017). The development in food systems of the latest decades shows increased supplies of food and advancement in the production sector.

However, even such beneficial achievements in agricultural technologies have caused significant damage to the environment. Indeed, as Bliss (2019) demonstrates, the industry of food production utilizes approximately forty percent of the land on the planet. The facilities of the industry cause significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and consume nine-tenths of the water supply of the world. Moreover, the modern methods of food production lead to “deforestation, toxification, eutrophication, freshwater scarcity, species extinction, and climate change” (Bliss, 2019, p. 1). In such a manner, humanity endangers resources sustainability and intensifies the threat of hunger in the future. Therefore, it is crucial to encourage new research and apply innovative methods and technologies to food production in order to mitigate climate change damages and ensure food security.

Technology as a phenomenon is very broad and entails a system of methods and techniques developed under the influence of innovative approaches to food production. It is important to mention that the specifications of technologies applicable to the food industry must be attributed to the specific features of a country where it is implemented. Indeed, if a country where crop growth is possible but obstructed faces part6icular difficulties, it is relevant to adopt technologies enhancing harvesting by finding ways to resolve the problem. Such solutions might include soil fertilization, water supply improvements, and other measures (Osabohien et al., 2018). As mentioned earlier, the existing technological approaches to food production lack an environmental-friendly perspective and need to be reevaluated and improved. Therefore, the technologies enhancing soil preparation, water supply, quality control, and storage of harvest and farming products must be implemented on a global scale for both developing and developed countries.

Technologies must be applied in agreement with the understanding of climate change impact. The extensive research in the field of the anticipated impacts of global warming on agriculture provides a scope of directions to implement the technology. The difficulties in achieving innovative production methods include the adaptation of agriculture to “higher temperatures and greater variability in rainfall” (Timmer, 2014, p. 335). Therefore, the application of technological change and innovation needs significant efforts from policymakers to ensure food availability, access, and security.

Conclusion

In summation, food security is an integral part of the future wellbeing of humanity. Under the circumstances of climate change, increasing the world’s population, exhausting natural resources, and growing food prices, the global community has to implement technological change and non-market distribution systems to ensure food security. When treating food production as a political issue and not as a market element, policymakers will be able to achieve significant results in equal distribution of food to all populations by ensuring the sustainability of resources. Further research should be carried out to investigate particular measures of technological environment-friendly agricultural methods with the analysis of available examples from both developing and developed countries. Such precise research of the existing implementations of innovations will contribute to the understanding of the merits and disadvantages of the procedures and help improve them in the future.

References

  1. Bliss, S. (2019). The case for studying non-market food systems. Sustainability, 11, 3224. Web.
  2. Campbell, B. M., Vermeulen, S. J., Aggarwal, P. K., Corner-Dolloff. C., Girvetz, E., Loboguerrero, A. M., … Wollenberg, E. (2016). Reducing risks to food security from climate change. Global Food Security, 11, 34-43.
  3. Dawson, T. P., Perryman, A. H., & Osborne, T. M. (2014). Modelling impacts of climate change on global food security. Climatic Change.
  4. Myers, S. S., Smith, M. R., Guth, S., Golden, C. D., Vaitla, B., Mueller, N. D., … Huybers, P. (2017). Climate change and global food systems: Potential impacts on food security and undernutrition. Annual Review of Public Health, 38, 259-277.
  5. Osabohien, R., Osabuohien, E., & Urhie, E. (2018). Food security, institutional framework and technology: Examining the nexus in Nigeria using ARDL approach. Current Nutrition and Food Science,14(2), 154-163.
  6. Riches, G. (2016). Hunger and the welfare state: Comparative perspective. In G. Riches First world hunger: Food security and welfare politics (pp. 1-14). London, England: Macmillan Press.
  7. Timmer, C. P. (2014). Food security, market processes, and the role of government policy. Encyclopedia of Agriculture and Food Systems, 3, 324-337.

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