Conference on Global Food Security
McGILL INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY
The food crisis of 2008 brought into sharp focus the stark realities confronting the global food production system. Rising energy prices, demand for biofuels, climate change, market speculation, changes in dietary patterns, and under-investment in the agricultural sector in many countries were some of the root causes of the 2008 crisis. Reduced agricultural research and development in the public sector, and a contraction in investments in rural infrastructure and development also did not help. Riots and political instability were manifested in several countries as a result of the food crisis. The impacts of the food crisis on the world’s most vulnerable and poorest were worsened a few months later when the North American financial crisis erupted. Some 100 million more people were plunged into food deprivation and poverty.
Although the Food Price Index has declined in international markets, the number of undernourished remains unacceptably high, estimated to be around one billion. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme have noted that 22 countries are in a protracted crisis, a situation characterized by recurrent natural disasters or conflicts, which cause a breakdown of livelihoods. The world will need to produce 70 % more food between now and 2050 to satisfy the demand of a population of just over 9 billion people. More attention needs to be paid to undernourishment, particularly of mothers and children.
It is against this global backdrop that the McGill Institute for Global Food Security was launched in October 2010. The challenges are daunting, but Institute members intend to focus their energies and the minds of staff, students and post doctoral fellows on finding solutions, and help to advance the annual agricultural productivity growth from the current 1.4% to the projected requirement of 1.75%, while at the same time conserving natural resources and minimizing environmental degradation. The time to reinvest in agriculture, food production and nutrition is now. Research and development, technology transfer, education, and dissemination of knowledge are so critical to alleviating the hunger and poverty being experienced by over 1 billion people in the world.