Broken food system could see millions go hungry: Oxfam launches new campaign GROW

Media Releases article written on the 31 May 2011

A broken food system and environmental crises will result in millions more hungry people, Oxfam said today ahead of the June 1 launch of its international campaign, GROW, which highlights the need to urgently transform the way we grow and share food.

The GROW campaign – supported by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, former President Lula of Brazil, actress Scarlett Johansson and former Masterchef Australia winner Julie Goodwin – aims to help create a world where everyone has enough to eat.

Oxfam’s new Growing a better future report, released today, explains the world’s broken food system, showing how rising food prices, increasing scarcity of arable land and water and a rapidly changing climate will undermine access to food across the world.

Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said: “Although the world produces enough food for everyone, the broken food system means one in seven people are still going hungry.

“Oxfam was created in response to the food crisis caused by the Second World War in 1942, but this is a new food crisis that threatens us all.

“Our research shows that the world’s food system faces unprecedented future challenges, as growth in agricultural yields flat-lines, the availability of land, water and fertilisers declines, and the impacts of climate change increase.”

Mr Hewett said that Australians, having encountered rising food prices after the Queensland floods, understood all too well the vulnerability of food to the effects of extreme weather.

“The Australian Government and businesses must help to urgently reform the global food system, and they can start by dealing swiftly with the increasing impact of climate change on food production by securing a global agreement on climate change.

“Secondly, the Australian aid program reflects the global trend over recent decades of declining investment in the food and agricultural sectors of developing countries. We must address this and prioritise support for small-scale primary producers who make up more than 80 per cent of the world’s hungry people.

“Finally, for the second time in just three years, we are seeing world food prices hit their highest recorded point ever. At the upcoming G20 meeting in Cannes in November, the Australian Government needs to push for real action to address skyrocketing food prices through regulation of commodity markets and reform of flawed US and EU biofuels policies.”

The Growing a better future report reveals that:

• By 2050, demand for food will rise by 70 per cent, yet production is not keeping pace. The growth rate in agricultural yields has almost halved since 1990 and is set to decline to a fraction of one per cent by 2020.
• The price of staple foods such as maize, already at an all time high, will more than double in the next 20 years. Up to half of this increase will be due to climate change.
• US biofuel policies cause 15 per cent of the world’s maize to be diverted to engines even at times of food crisis. The grain required to fill the petrol tank of an SUV with biofuels is sufficient to feed one person for a year.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “Many governments and companies will be resistant to change through habit, ideology or the pursuit of profit. It is up to us – you and me – to persuade them by choosing food that’s produced fairly and sustainably, by cutting our carbon footprints and by joining with Oxfam and others to demand change.”

Oxfam global ambassador Scarlett Johansson said: “Sharing food is one of life’s pleasures. On a global scale, we don’t share fairly. Close to a billion people go to bed hungry every night. The fact is the global food system is a broken one. All of us deserve enough to eat. That’s why I’m joining Oxfam’s Grow Campaign.”

Julie Goodwin, Australian Masterchef winner said: “As a cook and a mum I am passionate about good food which plays such an important role in our lives. Here in Australia most of us have plenty of food to eat, but sadly there are people who not so fortunate. I urge Australians to get behind the Grow campaign and discuss how we can build a better future to ensure people around the world have enough to eat.”

NOTES TO EDITORS: The follow Grow products and event are open to media

Grow will be officially launched in Australia at a forum called The Future of Food at 11am tomorrow on June 1 at the Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne. Hosted by the ABC’s Hilary Harper, the event will feature former Masterchef winner Julie Goodwin, Cultivating Community chief executive officer Jennifer Alden, SecondBite food program development manager Russell Shields, community leader and musician Ego Lemos and Oxfam Executive Director Andrew Hewett.

There will also be launch events on June 1 in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

The Oxfam Growing a better future report is available here

The Oxfam Australia Grow campaign booklet is available here

Broadcast quality video from India, and high resolution images and broadcast quality video of Scarlett Johansson, President Lula of Brazil, Julie Goodwin and other high profile supporters, are also available.

For these materials, interview or more information about the launch events contact Oxfam Australia Media Coordinator Sunita Bose on 0407 555 960.