This website uses cookies to ensure a better browsing experience; in addition to technical cookies, third-party cookies are also used. To learn more and become familiar with the cookies used, please visit the Cookies page.
By continuing to browse this site, you automatically consent to the use of cookies


Dan Glickman. We need a multidisciplinary approach to ensure food security

Sustainability / -

Dan glickman intervista 17 lug img rif
©Aspen Institute

We talked with Dan Glickman, Honorary Chair of the program, Former US Secretary of Agriculture (1995-2001) and Former Congressman (1977-2001), about the most difficult obstacles to sustainably feeding a growing world population and about the pressing issue of food waste.

Truly understanding the complex challenges facing the world in terms of long-term food security takes a multi-disciplinary approach. That’s exactly what the Aspen Institute’s Food Security Strategy Group (FSSG) does. We talked with Dan Glickman, Honorary Chair of the program, Former US Secretary of Agriculture (1995-2001) and Former Congressman (1977-2001), about the most difficult obstacles to sustainably feeding a growing world population and about the pressing issue of food waste.
Mr. Glickman, The Aspen Institute is doing some very important work through its Food Security Strategy Group. In fact, members of the group participated in The Aspen Forum at Expo in early July 2015, which was organized by Aspen Institute Italia. We know that the group explores the premier food security challenges facing global leaders in the long term. Could you tell us about the group’s approach?
The area of food security is one that a lot of people are involved in now because we had these food price spikes and food shortages during the late part of the last decade. We have all of these conflicts in the world like in Syria and South Sudan and we have climate and weather that may impact the ability to feed a hungry world sustainably. Aspen has the ability of convening people from different walks of life, different backgrounds, while most groups bring all farmers together or all agribusinesses together or all governments together. But Aspen has this history of bringing people together from different lines of work - from the private sector, the NGO world, the foundation world, government sectors, academic sectors - to talk about food issues, food security, hunger, nutrition, but do it in a broader sense so that we can look at these problems and figure out how to best solve them over the longer term. And that’s what’s missing from a lot of the other groups. So we have old politicians like me, we have young entrepreneurs, and we have a lot of people from the business world. So that is the great difference that Aspen offers.

Could you touch on some of the challenges the group is analyzing?
How to better coordinate humanitarian responses in this world, that’s a huge challenge. We don’t have enough money and resources from governments to help in Syria and other places on a humanitarian basis so we’ve got to figure out how to get a better funding model to help people who are hurting. How do we help smallholder farmers grow more and become more productive to the extent to become more self-sufficient? How do we finance agricultural research to help people cope with climate and weather and other related issues? How do we finance agriculture better so that people in the developing world can actually get the resources and the money to grow and build themselves? Those are just a small piece of a million different challenges.

The Aspen Forum at Expo took place during Women’s Weeks at the Milan Expo where there is a distinct interest in the link between food insecurity and women. In fact, we know that most hungry people in the world are women and girls. How is the FSSG taking this into consideration?
The majority of the smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are women. They’re growing most of the crops. So, women are particularly susceptible to poverty and hunger in the developing world. Women’s education is a key part of this issue of trying to build an agricultural system where they can be more economically self-sufficient. Women in agriculture are at the core of dealing with the issue of food security.
On a separate note, just a few days ago, I called for the next secretary general of the United Nations to be an experienced woman in food security. In all of the years of the UN, since 1945, we’ve never had one woman secretary general and yet women’s issues are so critical to development and anti-poverty fighting worldwide - whether it’s an agriculture issue or a non-agriculture issue. So we’ve tended to under-focus on women’s issues over the last few decades and now I hope we can begin to turn that around.

I read a recent blog written by you for Aspen on food waste. You talked about how 1/3 of all food produced worldwide is wasted either in the production or consumption phase. How is that possible?
It is a tragedy and there are different reasons for it. In the developed world, like in Europe and the United States, the food waste is largely a result of affluence or marketing of products. We have these “sell by” dates, and so people see the dates expired and they tend to throw the food out when it’s not necessary to do that in many cases. We waste about the same amount, percentage wise, in the developed world as they do in the developing world. It’s just done for different reasons. In the developing world, the waste is often because there’s no refrigeration, no storage, no constant source of electricity where you can connect refrigeration, bad roads, or very poor marketing systems where people don’t know how to get their crops to market better. The problems are real, but the solutions are real too. The US government, the private sector, even the European development agencies, are working on issues like power in Africa to get more electricity into the developing world. Electricity and roads are actually two of the major ways we’re trying to deal with this food waste issue.

In your blog you also talked about the environmental risks involved in food waste. Could you talk to us about that?
First of all, if you think about all of the food we are producing, much more food than we are using, just think of all of the carbon that’s going into the atmosphere to produce food that is being thrown away. So that’s a contributor to certainly methane in the atmosphere and theoretically to global warming. Then once it’s thrown away, what you do with it is its recycled and it’s used for energy and for other forms of positive things. But if food is just thrown away it just contributes to excessive garbage and theoretically to pests and diseases and that kind of thing. So, this is certainly part of the environmental challenges that agriculture is facing all over the world. It is not the primary challenge. The primary challenge is, frankly, in some cases the overutilization of pesticides and fertilizers and in some cases the underuse of pesticides and fertilizers. And the need for technical training of farmers to get them that much more comfortable with good environmental techniques.
As a Former Congressman and Secretary of Agriculture, you have years of experience on the topic of food waste. Could you please talk to us about the most effective solutions you have come across?
I was actually most effective as a Congressman, where I highlighted the issue locally in connection with food waste from a major corporate cafeteria, and facilitated the salvaging of about 300 meals a day with the help of local anti-hunger groups and the local Kansas health department. At USDA, we had a formal food recovery unit, which facilitated and funded local efforts at the farm level, and at the restaurant, catering and hotel levels, to salvage food. Congress also passed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act during my time as USDA Secretary, which created a national set of good faith standards that could be met to safely donate surplus food. We also created a national “gleaning” effort with various farm groups.

You were invited to speak at The Aspen Forum at Expo on agribusiness and trade, with a special focus on TTIP. What was your core message at the event?
My core message on TTIP was that notwithstanding the legitimate differences between the EU and the US on some key trade matters, it is too easy to forget that much of the developing world, in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America, does not have the luxury of debating the fine points of TTIP and other trade agreements and they struggle with feeding themselves sustainably. Often, what I call the full stomach caucuses of the developed world (EU and US) often forget how trade restrictions and protectionism can hurt people trying to grow and export their own food. By 2050, we will need to more than double food production, which means that open markets, and free and fair trade, will be required to avoid hunger and malnutrition. So while I agree with the policy objectives of the United States in these trade negotiations, I think the rhetoric and narrative of both the US and EU often ignores the practical food and agriculture needs of the developing world.


Livia Pomodoro, it's time to think about the best legacy of Expo 2015

Culture / -

© Giorgio Salvatori/Splash News/Corbis

UNESCO, bioethics, equal opportunities. Livia Pomodoro, President of the Court of Milan, has held a variety of roles in her career. Her resourcefulness has led to her leading a think tank that is already focusing on the legacy of the Universal Exposition both to Milan and the Planet in terms of the right to food. Hers is a tough job that sets her squarely before the difficult task of turning good intentions into deeds and actions - even when the spotlights are switched off.

From now until October 2015, Milan is to become a capital of food, a place where ideas and projects are born to transform an event into something that will help guarantee the right to food for all. How does the formation of the Milan Center for Food Law and Policy - which you chair - fit into this context?
The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the global organization behind all Universal Expositions, provides that there is one legacy for every Expo, a tangible inheritance that is left at the end of the event. The tangible legacy that is set to leave its mark after Milan Expo 2015 is the creation of the Center for its documentation and research into nutritional regulations and public policies. These initiatives are important as initiatives of action, but a framework is also needed to keep the good intentions alive over time, for the long run. So , to reach this goal we must make a further leap and work to ensure that Milan remains the world capital of food in the future. We have to implement an agreement made of minimum rules on the right to guaranteed food. This means laying groundwork that ensures good and adequate food for all, not subject to waste, profit for some or suffering for others.
The initiative is Milanese because the City of Milan, the Lombardy Region and the Chamber of Commerce of Milan, are participating, but its aims are international...
Yes, these organizations set up the business association and asked me to chair it, which I do willingly. And clearly, while we are starting from Milan, we will go on to build something in the international arena.
Gender equality in agriculture is still an illusion. Women are those who produce much of the food, are also those who suffer the most from hunger. Which policies should be adopted at least to reduce this gap?
Well above all we must always recognize basic human rights for all and in equal measure, be they men or women and in this context gender does not come into the question of food. But if women are carrying out this fundamental work, it is essential that they have at their disposal the means to help themselves and to help the Planet to grow.
In amongst the most important human rights is the right to education. According to the findings in recent years there is a positive correlation between the level of female education and the quality of the diet of their families. What is the connection between these two fundamental rights, especially when talking about women?
The link is informing all human beings, from childhood, of the role that each individual plays and exercises in ensuring their own survival and respect for the Earth's survival. For this reason, the right to learning and an education in general plays an indispensable role.
When it comes to food, we should mention the inequality that exists in food supply and malnutrition. What next steps will be taken to address these issues through the Expo and the Milan Center for Food Law and Policy?
Inequality and malnutrition are extremely importance issues with huge consequences, and so we must be careful not to get confused. It is clear that for both the production and distribution of sustainable and natural food, we must adopt certain rules that respect the interest of the community, as part of the common good, and not the interests of a few who make profit regardless of the multitudes that go hungry.
Unesco has registered the agricultural practice of cultivating head-trained bush vines (vite ad alberello) in Pantelleria as part of the intangible culture heritage of humanity. What positive effects will this recognition bring to Italy?
I think it is outstanding. Unesco did well and in reality I hope that there will be other similar awards and not just in Italy, but throughout the world. It is crucial to protect and take account of the practices and of intangible heritage: the world is full of people capable of creating beauty, but also many others who can destroy it.
Livia Pomodoro is an Ambassador for WE-Women for Expo. Read her biography and the interview online.

With Human Foundation at the Expo Milano 2015 Women's Weeks: social impact investments, women and agriculture today and towards Dubai 2020

Culture / -

Giovanna Melandri

Human Foundation participates in the Expo Milano 2015 Women's Weeks: a chance to think about social impact investments, women’s empowerment and rural communities. A reflection that starts from here and looks onto the future and the upcoming Universal Exhibitions.

There is no doubt that the West is going through one of the worst crisis of the century. However, these are the right moments to take the opportunity for a deep paradigm shift that experiments other economic models. There is a space beyond market failures and welfare difficulties . It can be found by abandoning the two-dimensionality of finance in the twentieth century (based on risk/return dualism) to add a third dimension: social impact investment.
There is already a global movement based on a widespread feeling: the idea that, in some cases, investments can be more effective than donations when helping the weaker categories of society; that the challenges companies face today are too complex for the governments and social forces to solve alone without networking. The great strength of Impact Investment lies in its ability to support development, innovation and social inclusion processes at the same time. We do this with Human Foundation: we prepare the way to facilitate, even in Italy, the construction of an ecosystem favorable to social impact investments. Contribution from women  is fundamental in this field. I am not just speaking of the outstanding figures that have contributed to the generative phase of impact investing like Judith Rodin, the Rockefeller Foundation, Jacqueline Novogratz, the Acumen Fund, Pamela Hartigan, the Skoll World Forum or Michelle Giddens, the Bridge Ventures. I am referring to less famous women who have played a key role in creating social enterprises in the developing countries that can be replicable models everywhere today. We will be presenting some of these experiences at Expo Milano 2015 on July 6 during the "Social Impact Investments for Food Security" day: women from the south of the globe who have created jobs and contributed to the welfare of the communities starting with agriculture. The conference will include case studies of impact funds that have placed trust in women as a social integration driving force favoring social integration processes of food sustainability of rural communities.

The virtuous link between women's empowerment, rural communities and impact investments will be the focus of the event attended by, in addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, Muhammad Yunus, inventor of micro-credit, Sir Ronald Cohen (father of Big Society and chairman of the Social Impact Investment Taskforce established within the G8 to promote social impact investments) and representatives of Italian institutions, like the Minister for Agricultural Policies Maurizio Martina.
In this perspective, what is undersigned in the "Women For Expo Alliance" seems even more necessary, the manifesto of concrete actions against food waste. Not just because the female dimension is considered as biologically innate to the nutrition topic but to give women the opportunity to own and manage the land they cultivate, innovating agricultural production to improve the nutritional status of their communities. This movement is just the beginning and cannot end with Milan. It is, indeed, necessary to structure it and  feed it so the best practices collected so far can be strengthened in light of the Dubai event.

Over a million people are already #FoodConscious. What about you?

The ExpoNet Manifesto