The Future of Food

Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law, Annual 2007 | Go to article overview
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The Future of Food

The panel was convened at 10:45 a.m., Thursday, March 29, by its moderator, Janet Nuzum, former U.S. International Trade Commissioner, who introduced the panelists: Peggy Clarke of Powell Goldstein LLP; Siphiwe Mkhize of the Embassy of South Africa; and Victor Mosoti of the Development Law Service, UN Food and Agriculture Organization.*


By D. Moyo ([dagger])


The right of access to sufficient food is enshrined in Section 27 of the South African Constitution. The Constitution obliges the state to provide legislation and other supporting measures to ensure that all citizens are enabled to meet their basic food needs.

The strategy framework for action to achieve food security was first outlined in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP, 1994), which identified food security as basic human need. It recognized poverty and food as the legacy of the apartheid socioeconomic and political order. The RDP food security framework was refined in subsequent policy papers, such as the Agriculture White Paper (1995), Broadening of Access to Agricultural Thrust (BATAT), and the Agricultural Policy discussion Document (1999). The policies outlined in these documents were consolidated and updated in the Integrated Development Programme (RDP), 1999), which is the policy of the Government of South Africa.

By 2000, changes had become necessary to improve the complicated situation resulting from the implementation of many food security programs by different government departments in all spheres. As a result, the South African Cabinet decided to formulate a national food security strategy that would streamline, harmonize and integrate the diverse food security programs into the Integrated Food Security Strategy.


In order to achieve food security, it is important to understand what the term constitutes. For the purpose of these remarks, food security is defined as physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food by all South Africans at all times to meet their dietary and food preferences for an active and healthy life. This definition has three distinct but inter-related components:

* Food availability: effective or continuous supply of food at both national and household level. It is affected by input and output market conditions, as well as production capabilities of the agricultural sector. * Food access or effective demand: the ability of the nation and its households to acquire sufficient food on a sustainable basis. It addresses issues of purchasing power and consumption behavior. * Reliability of food: utilization and consumption of safe and nutritious food.

* Food distribution: Equitable provision of food to points of demands at the right time and place. This spatial/time aspect of food security relates to the fact that a country might be food-secure at the national level, but still have regional pockets of food insecurity, at various periods of the agricultural cycle.


There exist certain necessary characteristics of a food system that help achieve food security effectively and efficiently. These include: (1) the capacity to produce, store, distribute and if necessary, to import sufficient food to meet the basic food needs of people; (2) a maximum level of robustness to reduce vulnerability to market fluctuations and political pressures; and (3) minimal seasonal, cyclical and other variations in access to food.


The costs of food insecurity are high, since they affect all levels of social and economic life. At the household level, food insecurity leads to disproportionately high health and medical costs, high funeral expenses, and low labor productivity.

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