Food Security - Long-term Prospects and National Security Implications
Global food consumption is driven primarily by two factors: global population increase, and the increase of the average standard of living. The global population has been increasing continuously, but that increase intensified over the past century, mainly due to scientific and technological breakthroughs. In addition, the average person has been consuming more food as the standards of living have improved worldwide. Therefore, even if the world population stabilizes, continued economic growth and increase in global living standards will continue to drive the increase in global food consumption. This creates a long-term challenge to provide sufficient food supply for the global population, ensuring food security.
Agricultural intensification refers to the need to increase the yields of the existing agricultural land to provide food security for the rising global population without clearing additional land for agriculture, since land clearance removes natural carbon sinks and reduces their overall capacity, further exacerbating the effects of carbon emissions. Agroecological farming is a broad system of practices that apply ecological principles to food production to achieve sustainable production while minimizing or eliminating negative environmental effects (Sinclair, 2019). This includes regenerative agriculture.
Several recent studies show the effect of adopting agroecological and regenerative agriculture practices on food security in Africa (Coulibaly, 2017; Mbow, 2014; Thorlakson, 2012). They illustrate how the adoption of these practices significantly improved food security for the adopters. In addition, environmentally-friendly techniques do not represent a trade-off between yield and environmental damage (Horton, 2021). A broad set of technologies and practices can achieve both sufficient yields and minimize environmental damage, providing a vital tool in combating climate change while ensuring sustainable and long-term food security.
Food security is also a vital national security aspect. The inability to feed the population creates vulnerability to outside influence, including radicalization (Falcon, 2005). Thus, improving global food security should be considered a tool in fighting overseas radicalization and terrorist recruitment and improving domestic national security (Hendrix, 2016). In addition, domestic food security is vital to pursuing national security policies without undue outside influence and interference, maintaining internal stability, and providing overall financial stability (Glinskiy, 2018; Fullbrook, 2010; Muzalev, 2020). Possibly the most important aspect of national security is providing a stable, sustainable, and resilient long-term food supply, both domestically and abroad. Policymakers, however, tend to ignore this key aspect.
The pandemic has shown how global supply chains can be disrupted in an unforeseen way for an undetermined amount of time. In addition, climate change affects traditional agricultural regions, changing the soil properties and weather patterns, and putting pressure on agricultural production worldwide, including the U.S. Climate change will most likely accelerate negative effects of industrial agriculture like soil erosion (Borrelli, 2017). Some soils may become net sources of atmospheric carbon due to the lowering of soil organic matter levels (Brevik, 2013). These processes impact the least developed economies the most. Regenerative agriculture practices form a natural response to these trends, providing more resilient and healthier soil.
To ensure long-term food security, agricultural practices must adopt those practices providing more resilience to climate change and natural disasters (Rojas, 2016). Large countries like the U.S. must ensure they will be able to provide continuous domestic food supply even if the global supply chains are severely disrupted. Policies in the U.S. should promote the adoption of agricultural practices providing long-term sustainable and resilient food production, ensuring robust food security.
Coalition for Regenerative Agriculture
District of Columbia