Will the pursuit of food security weaken the resilience of global food systems?

16 May, 2014 by (comments)

Fifty years ago palm oil was virtually non-existent in the Colombian diet. Now over 25% of the fat in national food supplies comes from the crop, making it the single most important plant for the provision of this macronutrient in the diet.

Intercropped maize and oil palm in Colombia. Photo: CIMMYT
Intercropped maize and oil palm in Colombia. Photo: CIMMYT

Along with Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Nigeria, Colombia has become one of the world’s largest producers of this African oil crop, contributing to the industrial production of inexpensive cooking oil distributed around the world.

This trend is not unique to palm oil, nor Colombia. Food products made from major crops such as wheat, rice, maize, soybean, sugar, and potato are now available worldwide – symptomatic of the globalisation of our diets, where what we eat across the world is becoming more and more similar and is linked ever more tightly to a small list of crops. Over the last five decades, human diets have grown 36% more similar.

What is the impact of the increasing standardisation of our global food supplies on the resilience of our food systems?

Well, actually, it could be fairly significant…

Read the full story on the WLE blog.

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This post was first published on the Water, Land and Ecosystems blog on 16 May 2014 and is part of the Agriculture and Ecosystems Blog’s month-long series on Resilience.

Written by Colin Khoury

Colin Khoury is a visiting Research Scientist working in the Decision and Policy Analysis Program (DAPA) at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). His study on the Increasing homogeneity in global food supplies and the implications for food security was published in March 2014.

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