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New Food Security Strategies in the Age of Global Food Crises

New Food Security Strategies in the Age of Global Food Crises

PARK Hwan-Il

Apr. 27, 2011

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Korea has the lowest level of food self sufficiency in the OECD. This is a result of Korea's food policies, which for a long time focused solely on rice, the traditional staple of the country. This policy provided no basis for production or supply of other foods. Moreover, incidents that threaten Korea's food security (e.g. Russia's recent restrictions on food exports due to unusual climate events) have been growing in frequency. Issues affecting the international supply, demand, and trade of food have strong potential to dramatically worsen Korea's food security.

Up to now, the government of Korea has responded to such contingencies by increasing its efforts to meet quantitative goals for food self sufficiency. Despite such efforts, however, Korea's food self sufficiency has in fact continued to decline due to its falling international competitiveness in agriculture, as well as its increased opening of its food market to foreign providers. Previous policies that focused on providing a stable production base for rice will thus be unsuited to the current situation. Moreover, as incomes and education levels rise, interest in "food safety" that encompasses health, the environment, and sustainability, has started to replace traditional concepts of "food security." Accordingly, food security now requires a comprehensive approach that considers not only the quantity and quality of food, but also its safety, health, and effects on the environment. In general, the stability and safety of the food supply are inversely related; however, integrated and op timized policies can improve both, and should be the highest priority of the nation's food policy in the 21st century.

This study accordingly reviews food security at the national level and presents new perspectives on the issue. Methods of quantitatively measuring levels of food security were attempted, and a "food security and safety index" was devised that considers both quantitative and qualitative aspects. SERI's Food Security Index has fallen continuously from its high point in 2006, and reached its lowest point in 2008. Both stability and safety for the food supply have worsened, with safety in particular suffering greater vulnerability. Accordingly, focusing only on quantitative goals like the food self sufficiency rate may result in worsening not only of stable supplies, but also of qualitative aspects like the environment, public health, and import stability.

In addition, it is an urgent task to prepare comprehensive policies that consider both stability and safety to increase Korea's food security. Major topics to be addressed with respect to food security include the two axes of increasing domestic supply capability and quality, and improving import structure and capability. Topics to be addressed in food safety include the two axes of improving environmental friendliness and sustainability, and improving food stability and accessibility.

As one proposal for comprehensively improving food stability, this study thus proposes implementing the THE ("Tasty, Healthy, Environmentally friendly food") project to stably provide high quality food to the public. Implementing the THE food project effectively upgrades the nation's food systems to link production, distribution, and consumption of food, strengthens the food supply system, and increases food self sufficiency through an increased focus on agriculture.

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