A new analysis argues for the need to address food insecurity by recognizing the interconnected nature of global food systems.
For Gaupp, shocks to the supply of food — for example, extreme weather events that may damage or destroy crops — are challenging.However, in our increasingly interconnected, globalized world, these shocks can come from events not directly related to growing food and can have far reaching consequences.
Gaupp — who is working jointly with IIASA’s Ecosystems Services and Management and Risk and Resilience programs — points to the COVID-19 pandemic as one such shock that is not directly related to food but has had a significant effect on global food systems.
Despite the world producing more than enough food for everyone on the planet, around one-quarter of the world’s population does not have access to food that is nutritious and sufficient.
Gaupp argues that this extreme inequality will get worse as there is increased demand for food from growing, affluent populations, placing more stresses on the environment that secure food systems depend upon.
Climate change has also placed severe stress on global food systems, destroying the quality of land, increasing desertification, disrupting conventional rainfall patterns, and causing sea levels to rise.
These stresses will get worse if temperatures significantly increase, as scientists predict.
However, while these are pressing concerns for the world’s ability to produce food, the interconnected nature of global food systems means that many other factors can affect food security.
According to Gaupp, the global supply chain of food is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer companies.
Even so, interconnected sectors that depend on many others to be able to function properly increasingly make up this global chain.
This means that while the system functions within conditions understood as “normal,” efficiency may be increased for those populations who have access to these markets and the wealth to engage with them.
However, if conditions are anything other than “normal,” the interconnectedness of the global food system means that it is increasingly susceptible to shocks from events not directly related to food.
These shocks can have a bigger negative effect, as global supply chains cease to function if parts of the chain break.