Consumers, experts at odds over solutions to global hunger

October 18, 2013

U.S. consumers and international food security experts agree: supporting the adoption of agricultural technology that leads to self-sufficiency and increasing support for smallholder farmers are important to addressing growing global hunger and malnutrition. These two solutions rate highest among consumers and experts in two separate studies conducted by The Center for Food Integrity (CFI). However, support for the top solutions isn’t as strong among consumers, who also are at odds with the experts when it comes to increasing organic food production and direct aid in the developing world.

Sixteen recognized leaders on food security issues from seven countries were asked to rate 14 potential solutions to global hunger in the Global Hunger Solutions 2013 survey, part of CFI’s efforts to increase awareness of critical global hunger issues. Consumers were asked to rate the same solutions in CFI’s annual consumer trust research.

On a scale of one to five, with one being “not at all important” and five being “critically important,” the experts rated “public policy that supports agricultural practices that lead to greater food self-sufficiency in the developing world” at 4.4, the highest expert rating; consumers rated the same solution at 4.0. Experts rated “the application of technology that increases agricultural production and reduces the impact of the environment” at 4.2, the second-highest expert rating; consumers rated the same solution at 3.9.

Experts and consumers are at odds when it comes to providing direct food aid and increasing organic food production as solutions. Consumers rated “increasing direct food aid in the developing world” at 3.6, while experts rated the solution at 2.5—the second lowest rating in the expert survey. The biggest disparity is seen when it comes to increasing organic production in the developing world. Consumers rated the solution at 3.6, while experts rated it 1.7, the lowest rating they assigned.

“The gap between expert opinion and U.S. consumer opinion on hunger solutions reflects one of the ongoing challenges in addressing food insecurity,” said Charlie Arnot, CEO of The Center for Food Integrity. “Building broader consensus around hunger solutions will help build public and policymaker support for those solutions. Focusing on solutions that have the greatest impact and broad support provides the best opportunity for success. Both experts and consumers support the adoption of technology that helps smallholder farmers build capacity to achieve self-sufficiency.”

Left unaddressed, the food security experts feel continued increases in global hunger and malnutrition will lead to social and political unrest, environmental degradation, and the failure of millions of people to reach full mental and physical capacity.

CFI’s Global Hunger Solutions Report