Staff Reporter

Mumbai: For a world reeling under security threats, economic meltdown and climate change, there exists a “substrate of conditions” that causes anguish and breeds violence. The conditions include widespread hunger and eroding food security, agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan said on Thursday.

He was speaking on the “causes of internal and external security threats” at a talk organised by a city-based group KARM here.

“Hunger is still a major problem, especially in India, which has the largest number of malnourished people. Every third child born in India is underweight,” he said. And while the United Nations Millennium Development Goals aimed at a 50 per cent reduction in hunger and poverty, last year 50 million more hungry people were added to the world, thanks to the rise in fuel prices.

Prof. Swaminathan said tackling hunger involved availability of food at current consumption levels, access to food and absorption of food in the body. A food security strategy should address all the three areas.

Food security was linked to livelihood security as 60 per cent of Indians depended on agriculture. This majority comprised the producers of food, who were also consumers. International bodies such as the World Trade Organisation did not comprehend this ethos, Prof. Swaminathan said.

“Agriculture is the backbone of livelihood security; it is not a food producing machine. In the developed countries, merely 2 to 3 per cent are the producers.” A growth in agriculture would therefore be a job-led growth.

On external threats to food security, he said “alien invasive species” such as virus causing avian influenza, and strains like Ug99 from Uganda posed risks.

Using technology for surveillance systems and knowledge dispersal at the local level was needed to prepare ourselves for potential damage from climate change, Prof. Swaminathan said.