[ASC-media] Media release: global food means global risks

JCA Media jca.media at starclass.com.au
Mon Aug 14 23:25:57 CEST 2006

International Association of Agricultural Economist 26th Conference
Gold Coast Convention Centre, Qld, Australia
August 12-18, 2006	   ph 07 5504 4057


Tuesday, August 15, 2006							


Globalisation of the world's food systems is bringing big benefits, but has its own emerging risks.

Consumers have less control over food production, so there is increasing need for international regulation, says Professor Laurian Unnevehr of the University of Illionois, addressing the International Association of Agricultural Economics conference on Australia's Gold Coast today (August 15, 2006). 

"Globalising the food system means globalising risk," says Professor Unnevehr. "In some cases, this can mean the reduction of risk, but there are many examples of food safety being compromised when the supplies come from a variety of sources, are mixed and mingled in transit, and are sent to a variety of destinations.

"When something goes wrong, it can affect many more people than in the past," she says.

Consumers have delegated control of food and its production to international marketing organisations such as the supermarket chains, says Professor Unnevehr, which has the effect of driving food standards 'upstream' towards the original producers of the food.

Professor Unnevehr says that producers in developing countries are benefiting from risk mitigation, because they may be forced to adopt higher standards to satisfy the marketing organizations.

"Management practices such as integrated pest management, or certification of good agricultural practices, lead to more efficiency, better sanitation and greater work safety," she says. 

"But this is not universal. It's not always win-win," she says. "It can also mean that some producers can be put out of business for being unable to meet imposed standards. 

"Meeting food safety standards can be a strong motivation towards investment in quality assurance, but inevitably there are safety hazards which are beyond the control of individual marketing companies," she says. "So there's a need for regulation to create a level playing field for all producers."

Professor Unnevehr cites the supply of clean water and reliable electricity as two pre-conditions for the efficient production of food to meet today's market demands. These require public investment and state involvement.

She is optimistic that the combination of market forces and international standards for food safety can only lead to global improvement in food production.

"Risk assessment has become a precise science in recent decades," she says. "What has also improved is our ability to test, track and identify risks and to understand their control."

Professor Unnevehr says that the massive expansion in global trade carries with it great benefits. The risks, she says, are real, but minor compared to the advantages of globalisation.

The International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE) 26th Annual Conference on "The Contribution of Agricultural Economics to Critical Policy Issues" is at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, Qld, from August 12-18, 2006.

More information:
IAAE media centre, Gold Coast Convention Centre, +61 (0)7 5504 4057
Professor Laurian Unnevehr, University of Illinois, +1 217 333 3049, 217 390 7887
Media contact: Prof. Julian Cribb, 0418 639245

Conference program & details:

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