Maximizing sustainable food-security

Food-security should be maximized by countries producing what they are best at, exporting overproduction, and importing foods that satisfy Collective Sustainability


Overall international food-security seems best served if countries do not overreact to concerns of national food-security by falling into the trap of trying to produce everything that they need themselves. Instead, everyone benefits if countries produce those things that they are best at and then export any overproduction while importing everything else that still adheres to the principle of Collective Sustainability.

For instance, it creates a smaller carbon footprint for the UK to import lamb from New Zealand than to rear it domestically. But for reasons of health as well as for land and water efficiency, it is even more attractive if many Western populations simply eat a bit less meat. Rather than, as some have suggested, governments encouraging people to become vegetarian, it is far more practical simply to encourage them to have slightly smaller portions of meat on their plate. If, for example, people on average have servings 80% the size – maybe compensating for volume by having extra vegetables – that is equivalent to one-in-five of the meat-eating population becoming completely vegetarian. And many people would probably hardly notice the change in their diet. That sort of transition is at least realistic for a government to attempt.

It only makes sense for a country to be self-sufficient (if that is even possible) on its most critical foods. But it is not attractive to be completely self-sufficient, because then the country would suffer far more from a crop failure caused by disease or bad weather. It is far safer – in terms of both national security and global security – to maintain strong domestic food production as well as contribute to a global market where countries can buy food from each other. Even flying in some foods may make sense if the alternative is to use more energy growing them in a heated greenhouse – though once again, it is even more preferable that, just as in the past, rich populations get reacquainted with more seasonality in fruit and vegetables. To encourage such behavior, governments can, for instance, offer tax breaks on food that is produced, packaged and distributed locally.

Even more importantly, to help consumers make their own decisions, all food can be clearly labeled with the amount of carbon and the amount of water it took to produce it and get it to the shelf. That sort of solution typifies how retailers and others can most-effectively encourage governments to approach Collective Sustainability. At the core of how such an approach works is the principle of creating the circumstances and providing the information that makes it easier for people to make individual decisions that collectively have the clout to force a change of the status-quo. In effect, rather than trying to force through change, the skill is to create the conditions for change. It is a deceptively powerful technique. It is, after all, a means of triggering the unlimited influence of Boundaryless People-Power.