Food and resource policy for Eurasia

I have written a blog post about food and resource policy for countries in the Eurasia region.  You can find it here http://ecfs.msu.ru/en/blog/new-evidence-support-food-policy-eurasia-783

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Food Security in Eurasia

Food and nutrition challenges and opportunities in Central Asian countries have been all but ignored in recent and current international debate about food security.  A new book consisting of seven case studies of selected food security and natural resource policy challenges published by the Eurasian Center for Food Security ECFS) is an important contribution to the understanding of how government policy can contribute to improved food security and more sustainable management of natural resources in the region.  Based on an analysis of the particular case and the identification of relevant stakeholder groups, each case study presents a set of policy options and recommends how best to proceed.  The book and the individual cases may be downloaded in open access at   http://ecfs.msu.ru/en/resources/case-study-publication-food-security-eurasia-778

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Changing food systems for improved health

Changing food systems for improved health:  Seeking win-wins[1]

Per Pinstrup-Andersen[2]

Food systems have much greater impact on our health and wellbeing than they are getting credit for by the popular press and in the general debate.  In spite of economically well-functioning food systems, nutrition-related health problems are huge both in the United States and worldwide.  These problems could be significantly reduced if health goals are explicitly considered in the decisions made in the food systems.  Such decisions influence diets in a variety of ways, some positive and others negative. Unhealthy diets contribute to nutrient deficiencies and overweight, obesity and related illness.  Every third non-pregnant woman worldwide is iron deficient and the number is increasing and one fourth of the world’s preschool children do not grow to their full potential, primarily because of unhealthy diets leading to malnutrition. About 15 % of the world population is obese; close to 10 % has diabetes and many more are added every day.  Between 40 and 45 million Americans are food insecure, while one-third of the total population is obese and another third is overweight but not (yet) obese.  Thirty million Americans are diabetic, 86 million have prediabetes and the numbers are going up.  The costs of malnutrition and related illness, including those mentioned above, are huge, whether measured in monetary costs to societies or in welfare terms for the individuals affected.

So how can food systems be changed to improve health and nutrition?  The obvious answer would be to assure that food systems are driven solely by health goals rather than economic goals.  That is also a naïve and unworkable answer.  Failure to take into account basic economic factors would lead to inefficient and unsustainable systems. A better answer is to find ways to achieve both health and economic goals.  The specific win-win solutions will depend on the context and the nature of the health problem.  The following may serve as illustrations:

1)      Joint efforts by the food processing industry, consumer-oriented non-government organizations and government to simultaneously change consumer preferences and the content of processed foods towards a more healthy diet, e.g. more micronutrients and fiber and less sugar, sweeteners and fat,  while maintaining or increasing profits in the food processing industry .  Such efforts, which would be relevant in communities where obesity is the most important diet-related problem,  might include nutrition education, advertising and changes in government regulations, subsidies and other policies, including those that influence relative prices of various food commodities.  There is an urgent need for the interested parties to get together to design and implement a mutually beneficial solution to the obesity problem caused by the current unhealthy diet.

2)      Fortification of basic food staples with nutrients that are deficient in the diet.  While industrial fortification is widespread in the United States, benefitting both the processing industry and consumers, it is much less common in developing countries.  Biofortification offers opportunities for higher incomes for farmers and better diets for consumers.

3)      Expanded publicly and privately funded research to increase the productivity and reduce unit-costs of production of fruit and vegetables to change diets towards increased micronutrient consumption and decreased intake of dietary energy while increasing incomes to farmers, a win-win opportunity waiting to be exploited.

4)      Investments in rural infrastructure, such as roads, electricity and market facilities, in low-income countries.  This would reduce the post-harvest losses and marketing costs for the benefit of farmers, consumers and traders.

Many other illustrations of potential win-wins could be mentioned. The key point is that efforts to achieve health goals that are compatible with economic goals pursued by the agents in the food system, will succeed.  Those that are incompatible will fail.


[1] Prepared for blog for Harvest2050.

[2] Professor Emeritus, Cornell University

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Food Systems, Human Health and Nutrition

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Achieving Food Security for all in the Foreseeable Future

Increasing food production is necessary but not sufficient for food security. To be food secure, households must have access to the quantity and kinds of food needed for a healthy and productive life. Very large stocks of food currently coexist with widespread food insecurity. Appropriate policies along with public and private investments are needed to enhance low-income people’s purchasing power or food production capacity.

Considering both the supply and demand sides, economist Per Pinstrup-Andersen discusses what it will take to achieve food security for all in the foreseeable future, Dec. 3, 2015 in a lecture to the Cornell Association of Professors Emeriti.  (Video link is available by clicking here.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Changing Food Systems for Improved Health: Seeking Win-Wins

Blog below, by Per Pinstrup-Andersen, published by Global Harvest Initiative on January 11, 2016 (http://bit.ly/1TQlREm).

Food systems have much greater impact on our health and wellbeing than they are getting credit for by the popular press and in the general debate. In spite of economically well-functioning food systems, nutrition-related health problems are huge both in the United States and worldwide. These problems could be significantly reduced if health goals are explicitly considered in the decisions made in the food systems.

Such decisions influence diets in a variety of ways, some positive and others negative. Unhealthy diets contribute to nutrient deficiencies and overweight, obesity and related illness. Every third non-pregnant woman worldwide is iron deficient and the number is increasing and one-fourth of the world’s preschool children do not grow to their full potential, primarily because of unhealthy diets leading to malnutrition. About 15 % of the world population is obese; close to 10 % has diabetes and many more are added every day. The impact of unhealthy diets is compounded by reductions in physical activity, both in high-income countries and, increasingly, in developing countries.

In the U.S. alone, between 40 and 45 million Americans are food insecure, while one-third of the total population is obese and another third is overweight but not (yet) obese. Thirty million Americans are diabetic, 86 million have prediabetes and the numbers are going up. The costs of malnutrition and related illness, including those mentioned above, are huge, whether measured in monetary costs to societies or in welfare terms for the individuals affected.

Blog
The 2015 GAP Report highlights strategies to increase the availability of and access to sufficient nutritious affordable foods in a way that is economically viable and environmentally sustainable.

So how can food systems be changed to improve health and nutrition?

The obvious answer would be to assure that food systems are driven solely by health goals rather than economic goals. That is also a naïve and unworkable answer. Failure to take into account basic economic factors would lead to inefficient and unsustainable systems.

A better answer is to find ways to achieve both health and economic goals. The specific win-win solutions will depend on the context and the nature of the health problem. The following may serve as illustrations:

  1. Joint efforts by the food processing industry, consumer-oriented non-government organizations and government to simultaneously change consumer preferences and the content of processed foods towards a more healthy diet, e.g. more micronutrients and fiber and less sugar, sweeteners and fat, while maintaining or increasing profits in the food processing industry.  Such efforts, which would be relevant in communities where obesity is the most important diet-related problem,  might include nutrition education, advertising and changes in government regulations, subsidies and other policies, including those that influence relative prices of various food commodities.  There is an urgent need for the interested parties to get together to design and implement a mutually beneficial solution to the obesity problem caused by the current unhealthy diet.
  2. Fortification has a positive record of improving nutritional status in countries where micronutrient deficiencies are prevalent. Collaborations between the public, private and non-profit sectors in India are increasing the production and consumption of fortified stables such as wheat flour, milk and edible oils. (See GHI’s 2014 GAP Report, page 50.) Photo source: Elizabeth Whelan/CHCFortification has a positive record of improving nutritional status in countries where micronutrient deficiencies are prevalent. Collaborations between the public, private and non-profit sectors in India are increasing the production and consumption of fortified staples such as wheat flour, milk and edible oils. (See GHI’s 2014 GAP Report, page 50.) Photo source: Elizabeth Whelan/CHC

    Fortification of basic food staples with nutrients that are deficient in the diet.  While industrial fortification is widespread in the United States, benefitting both the processing industry and consumers, it is much less common in developing countries.  In addition, biofortification (breeding crops to increase their nutrition value) offers opportunities for higher incomes for farmers and better diets for consumers.

  3. Expanded publicly and privately funded research to increase the productivity and reduce unit-costs of production of fruit and vegetables to encourage increased micronutrient consumption and decreased intake of dietary energy while increasing incomes to farmers, a win-win opportunity waiting to be exploited.
  4. Investments in rural infrastructure, such as roads, electricity and market facilities, in low-income countries. This would reduce the post-harvest losses and marketing costs for the benefit of farmers, consumers and traders.

Many other illustrations of potential win-wins could be mentioned. The key point is that efforts to achieve health goals that are compatible with economic goals pursued by the agents in the food system, will succeed. Those that are incompatible will fail.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Food Price Policy in an Era of Market Instability: A Political Economy Analysis

We may be able to adjust to food price change, but what do people do if they can’t keep up with fluctuations that sometimes change dramatically in just a few months?

Multiple challenges face global food systems today, but food price volatility is a major issue which has huge impacts on poverty and malnutrition worldwide. Food prices have fluctuated dramatically over the last decade, especially for commodities such as rice, wheat, and maize.  Despite the importance of agriculture in many developing countries’ economies, few understand the processes that led to policy responses or the relative power and behavior of stakeholders. Understanding why governments responded as they did to these food price fluctuations is important for shaping new strategies to confront future price volatility in the market.

Per Pinstrup-Andersen’s new book Food Price Policy in an Era of Market Instability: A Political Economy Analysis, published by Oxford University Press (Jan. 2015), presents the political economy studies of food price policy in 14 developing countries as well as the United States and the European Union. In addition to his position as Graduate School Professor and Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, Pinstrup-Andersen is adjunct professor at Copenhagen University, chairman of the High Panel of Experts on Food Security (HLPE) and vice chairman of the World Economic Forum’s Council on food Security.

Click here for video on presentation at Mann Library’s “Chat in the Stacks” held September 24, 2015.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Book Launch Video

The new book entitled “Food Price Policy in an Era of Market Instability: A Political Economy Analysis,” edited by Per Pinstrup-Andersen, was published by Oxford University Press in January of 2015.  A video, by India Habitat Centre, of the book launch event sponsored by UNU-WIDER in New Delhi, India, on March 4, 2015, is available here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Three-Part Interview About the Political Economy of Food Price Policy

The three-part interview with Per Pinstrup-Andersen on the Political Economy of Food Price Policy, recently conducted by the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER), is available below.

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is foreign investment in Africa’s agriculture good for the poor?

A summary of a presentation on this topic given in Copenhagen can be found here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment