Food consumption as a share of household expenditure vs. Global Food Security Index 2017. Graphic: Global Food Security Index

By Eillie Anzilotti
4 October 2017

(Fast Company) – Since 2012, the Economist Intelligence Unit, the research arm of the Economist group, has compiled a yearly assessment of the ability of 113 countries to feed their populations. This year, the Global Food Security Index recorded a slip in food security for the first time after four consecutive years of improvement; this trend is backed up by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which found that wars and climate-related disasters have left 38 million more people undernourished than in 2015.

The GFSI, which has been sponsored by DuPont since its inception, gets more granular, tracking the affordability, availability, quality, and safety of food on a country-by-country basis to come up with a comprehensive food security score. Around 60% of the 113 countries included in the GFSI saw their scores drop this year. For the first time, the U.S. dropped from its place at the top of the rankings, scoring 84.6 out of 100–a whole point less than Ireland, whose comeback after its financial crisis of 2008 has involved significant research and investment in supporting food security.

Ireland’s leap to the top was the result of concerted effort on the part of its government; some countries’ declines in food security are also attributable to austerity measures and inefficient resource management at the national level. But many of the countries’ tumbles are attributable to larger factors: earthquakes, fires, floods, national unrest. “These not only have a huge impact on people’s lives–they also have a destructive effect on tracks of agriculture and farming land,” says EIU senior consultant Robert Powell at an event during the United Nations General Assembly in New York. “And what’s the outcome of that? It means that there’s more mouths to feed, but there’s less land with which to feed them.”

So this year, to capture the effect of climate change on a country’s overall food security, the GFSI report has added a new Natural Resource and Resilience (or Exposure) indicator. The Exposure indicator is separate from the baseline indicators, to allow for easier comparisons with previous years’ data sets, but can be overlaid on the baseline GFSI scores to create an adjusted score. “What this indicator does is it adds a stronger forecasting element to the data,” Powell tells Fast Company. The baseline indicators, he adds, provide a snapshot of food security in a country as it currently stands, but the Exposure indicator quantifies the challenges ahead, that are contingent on how a country responds to the volatility produced by climate change. [more]

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