Back 01.06.2016

Food security is a complex sustainability issue

This year, the definition of food security celebrates 20 years. The World Food Summit in 1996 defined that food security exists “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. This means that people should have both physical and economic access to food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences. Despite all hard work that have been done globally and locally in different countries, we still cannot take food security for granted – not even in the Western countries.

The questions related to food security are versatile and on three levels: first, there needs to be food available in sufficient quantities, secondly, one has to have access to the food, and finally the food should be used appropriately to maintain balanced nutrition. Problems can arise at any level. A situation, in which there simply is no food for all, occurs from time to time in many developing countries e.g. after natural disasters. In the Western world there is food, however, not everyone can access safe and nutritious food in sufficient quantities. When there is plenty of food to choose from, the difficult part for average consumer is to understand appropriate use of food and to act accordingly. Food is meant to be eaten to keep us healthy (not make us ill), and it is so valuable that it should not be wasted.

Food security is also a complex sustainability issue, not only from social point of view, but also from ecological and economical points of view. This engages the entire food system and all operations within it. A lot of work is being done to reach a more sustainable food system that can deliver better food security – to mention a few topics: reduction of negative environmental impacts throughout the whole food chain (from farm to industry), building sustainable trade practices, and selecting what to produce and how. Gaia works with these topics, as well. For example, we have studied the possibilities in nutrient cycle in Finland, which has a close link to sustainable agriculture and primary production. These in turn are corner stones of food security.

Food is one of the main themes of the ongoing European Sustainable Development Week, as well. Gaia aims to raise awareness on food security and availability through Bugs’n Wine event. Check it out here.

The writer is Senior Consultant at Gaia working, for example, with food chains and agriculture.


  • Anna Hillgrén,, +358505042440