Geopolitics of Food

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Title: Geopolitics of Food
Authors: Saalbach, Klaus
Abstract: The paper analyzes the food security with the four dimensions physical availability, economic and physical access, food use/utilization and stability, the economy and ecology of food production (plants, meat, fish), the risk factors for food security and the geopolitical activities. The food production increased almost 2.2 times in the past 50 years and was able to compensate the population growth, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that the food production must increase from 2015 to 2050 by 60%. The growth was achieved by a combination of increased irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to protect plants from harmful insects and pesticides and a general trend to larger farms and monocultures. Issues are nitrate overload, pesticide contamination, reduction of insects, pollination and birds, loss of biodiversity and land loss and degradation. Smart or precision farming based on the Internet of Things, 5 G networks, drones and Artificial Intelligence may lead to a more effective and ecologic resource use. Over the past 50 years, meat production has more than tripled. Meat production requires land for pastures and animal feed production. Meat replacements and alternatives like mock food, meat from cell cultures and insects have a small, but growing market. Another issue are livestock emissions like carbon dioxide and methane. In the past 50 years, fish production has increased by almost 4 times. Approximately one-third of the fish resources are overfished and some species are in a critical condition. The USA were the largest exporter of food in 2020 while Asia was the largest net importer. Europe was a net importer of food for many decades, but became a net exporter since 2013. While Africa’s imports and exports were balanced until the mid 1970ies, the gap between imports and exports is widening. The global food market is increasingly dominated by a few multinational companies from seeds to supermarkets. The most critical risk factors for food security are climate change with soil loss and water scarcity due to higher temperatures, extreme weather with storms, droughts (and floods with continued soil loss due to wind and water erosion. Water waste and low water prices are drivers of water scarcity, e.g., by overuse of groundwater resources like aquifers. A new threat to freshwater is the global contamination with microplastic. After the food price crisis from 2007/2008, food was recognized as strategic resource leading to land lease and buying, also known as Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) or more critically as ‘land grabbing’ to prevent bottlenecks in the long term. The Black Sea Grain Initiative demonstrates the vulnerability of global food supply chains and the possibility to weaponize food. Two international water conflicts are ongoing with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam GERD in East Africa and the India-China Transboundary Water Dispute. In summary, the food, meat, and fish production could be successfully increased to compensate the population growth and the increasing meat consumption, but hunger and undernourishment still exist. Main risk factors for future food security are climate change, land loss and water scarcity. In response, food is seen as strategic resource resulting in geopolitical activities and food and water conflicts.
Citations: Universität Osnabrück, Department 1, Geostrategy and Geopolitics, 2023.
Subject Keywords: Geopolitics; Food; Food Security
Issue Date: 21-Jul-2023
License name: Attribution 3.0 Germany
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Type of publication: Arbeitspapier [WorkingPaper]
Appears in Collections:FB01 - Hochschulschriften

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