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Animasaun, D.A.; Adedibu, P.A.; Shkryl, Y.; Emmanuel, F.O.; Tekutyeva, L.; Balabanova, L. Food-Secure World. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 21 June 2024).
Animasaun DA, Adedibu PA, Shkryl Y, Emmanuel FO, Tekutyeva L, Balabanova L. Food-Secure World. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 21, 2024.
Animasaun, David Adedayo, Peter Adeolu Adedibu, Yury Shkryl, Faith Olatayo Emmanuel, Liudmila Tekutyeva, Larissa Balabanova. "Food-Secure World" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 21, 2024).
Animasaun, D.A., Adedibu, P.A., Shkryl, Y., Emmanuel, F.O., Tekutyeva, L., & Balabanova, L. (2023, August 10). Food-Secure World. In Encyclopedia.
Animasaun, David Adedayo, et al. "Food-Secure World." Encyclopedia. Web. 10 August, 2023.
Food-Secure World

Food security is an overly broad concept. It is, therefore, difficult to capture the totality of this concept in a few words. Several attempts have been made by global bodies in recent decades before arriving at the current definition. At the World Food Conference (1974), the concept of ‘food security’ was introduced, and it was defined as the consistent availability of sufficient global food supplies, including essential nutrients, to enable a steady increase in food consumption and counteract fluctuations in production and prices. 

plant biotechnology genetic engineering GM

1. Food Insecurity: A Global Menace

Food insecurity persists all around the world [1]. According to Bickel et al. [2], the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) elucidated that food insecurity pertains to a situation whereby access to safe, healthy, and nutritious meals is restricted, uncertain, limited, or unpredictable, as well as the capacity to acquire acceptable foods through socially acceptable means. This is a disheartening reality in many regions of the world.
Currently, there are about 8 billion people on planet Earth. It is unfortunate that about 1 billion people languish through undernutrition, living daily in hunger, and that 2 billion more people suffer from essential micronutrient deficiencies [3]. Since 2019, the number of people affected by severe hunger has surged from 135 million to 345 million. Recent statistics reveal that about 49 million people across 49 countries are at risk of famine [4], and a large proportion of the affected population is in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Undernourishment, a tragic impact of food insecurity, is equally ravaging the world [5]. It affects 20% of developing nations, contributing to infant mortality in 50% of cases. Globally, children are the hardest hit by food insecurity. Hundreds of millions of newborns and mothers are vitamin A and iodine deficient. Micronutrient deficiencies, such as iron and vitamin A, affect a substantially larger proportion of people, resulting in anemia. It has been estimated that 2 billion individuals (one out of every three) are anemic [1]. Anaemia, a disease caused by a lack of iron, accounts for approximately 20% of maternal deaths in Asia and Africa. In developing nations, in particular, food insecurity and malnutrition pose major challenges to public health [6][7]. The world is indeed in a food crisis [1]. Globally, more than one-third of children under 5 years of age are affected by malnutrition or undernutrition, not getting enough nutrients needed for optimum growth from their daily diet [8]. Also, more than 400 million mothers have stillborn or underweight infants owing to iron insufficiency. Energy and protein malnutrition affects over 160 million preschool children, resulting in the deaths of more than 5 million children (<5 years) each year [9][10].
The International Food Policy Research Institute [11] further revealed that more than one in every four children is affected by stunting, and wasting is also prevalent, affecting 9% of children. The situation is aggravated by natural disasters, wars, and pandemic outbreaks. For instance, the recent COVID-19 pandemic caused a severe increase in the world population affected by food insecurity, and the number of households experiencing this menace surged drastically. Figure 1 shows the rise in food insecurity in the USA and Africa, respectively. According to a United Nations Report, it is disheartening to note that global efforts toward achieving the eradication of hunger, food insecurity, and nutritional deficiency in all forms by 2030 do not appear to be getting close to the intended goals [12].
Figure 1. Food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic in (a) the USA [13]; (b) Africa [14].
In the face of diminishing land availability for agriculture and food production due to industrial and construction activities, the world is left with no alternative but to seek means to maximize the limited resources available and produce more food from the fast-depleting farmlands and the small amount of irrigation water. As a result, the requirement for additional food must be addressed by increasing yields per unit of resource input (land, water, energy, and time). It becomes imperative to examine how science can be deployed to increase productivity ceilings with no further harm to the ecosystem [15][16], a need that biotechnology duly meets.
Achieving food security is a matter of global urgency and all hands must be on deck. Several international agreements and institutions have been formed to this end. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the main worldwide policy for reducing hunger and poverty. The second goal of the SDG, tagged ‘The Zero Hunger Initiative’, aims to achieve a set of universally agreed-upon goals that will put an end to hunger, ensure food security and improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by the year 2030. A question still needing an answer is how this can be achieved within a limited time and with limited resources. Biotechnology is a promising solution! As asked by Habibi-Najafi [17], is it achievable without the use of innovative technology and methods capable of increasing agricultural productivity to minimize crop loss owing to attacks by pests, producing foods with superior nutrient content, and ultimately achieving global food security and sustainable agriculture with an expanding population? Is there an alternative to genetic engineering and biotechnology?

2. Defining a Food-Secure World

Food security is an overly broad concept. It is, therefore, difficult to capture the totality of this concept in a few words. Several attempts have been made by global bodies in recent decades before arriving at the current definition [18]. At the World Food Conference (1974), the concept of ‘food security’ was introduced, and it was defined as the consistent availability of sufficient global food supplies, including essential nutrients, to enable a steady increase in food consumption and counteract fluctuations in production and prices [19]. The definition was dynamic, as it reflected the prevalent protein–energy deficiency in 1970, which affected more than 25% of the global population. However, the definition has been consistently revised to broaden its coverage. In 1983, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) [20] introduced a new concept that emphasized the importance of guaranteeing the universal availability and affordability of basic food requirements for all individuals. Similarly, in 1986, the World Bank [21] incorporated a new notion of ensuring that everyone has access to adequate food to lead a healthy and productive life. These concepts highlight the critical role of equitable and sustainable food systems in promoting human well-being and development. A broader definition was achieved by the FAO in 1996 [22], which was revised again in “The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2001” with a social emphasis. Food security was then described as a situation in which all people always have sufficient, affordable, and nutritious food to satisfy their dietary demands for an active and healthy life [12]. However, the definition was deemed inadequate and was revised, adding another component, ‘food stability’, which emphasizes the ability of food systems to withstand alterations or declines, whether caused by natural or man-induced factors [23].
Food security is commonly associated with the level of assurance that a population has sufficient access to the required amounts of food from available sources to fulfill their dietary needs at the national or regional level. This is commonly linked to the adequacy of the national food balance. The degree of food security in a country is measured largely by the minimum per-capita dietary calories required by the lowest nutritional group, assuming that all locations and socioeconomic groups can equally access the available food supply for a prolonged period [24]. To this effect, the world aims to achieve high food security for all people regardless of social status, race, or location [25].
Food security is comprehensively defined across four dimensions, namely food availability, food accessibility, food utilization, and food stability, as illustrated in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Essential components of food security [12][18].
Food availability refers to the availability of high-quality food in adequate amounts, whether produced domestically or imported. Food accessibility, on the other hand, ensures that food of acceptable quality is obtainable by the consumer at affordable costs. Food utilization focuses on “safe and nutritious food that fits individuals’ dietary demands,” or the body’s capacity to efficiently absorb food nutrients, enabling a person to live and function optimally. The fourth entity, food stability, emphasizes that a population, household, or individual must always have access to adequate food to be considered food secure. Food access should not be threatened by economic or climatic disasters or cyclical events (such as seasonal food insecurity) [12][18][24]. The concept of stability can apply to both the accessibility and availability of food.
Meeting the world’s rising food demand is a global challenge, particularly in Africa, and agricultural sustainability is indispensable for achieving this [26]. Current agricultural production and conventional technologies are grossly incapable of meeting the increasing food demand of the expanding population, which is a critical concern [26][27]. There is a sense of urgency around the world to curtail the menace and ensure food security, but how can this be achieved? Any viable approach to ameliorating the situation by boosting food production in both quality and quantity should be considered [28]. To this effect, biotechnology is a promising panacea for world food insecurity [29]. Although genetic engineering and other biotechnological approaches available for improving the desirable traits of plants and animals offer massive benefits for combating food insecurity, debate is ongoing on their biosafety and unlikely aftermath.


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  2. Bickel, G.; Nord, M.; Price, C.; Hamilton, W.; Cook, J. Guide to Measuring Household Food Security; USDA Food and Nutrition Service: Alexandria, VA, USA, 2000; p. 82.
  3. FAO; IFAD; UNICEF; WFP; WHO. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020. Transforming Food Systems for Affordable Healthy Diets; FAO: Rome, Italy, 2020.
  4. World Food Programme. A Global Food Crisis. 2022. Available online: (accessed on 26 June 2023).
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  8. GNAFC; FSIN. 2020 Global Report on Food Crisis. 2020. Available online: (accessed on 6 July 2023).
  9. Clark, H.; Coll-Seck, A.M.; Banerjee, A.; Peterson, S.; Dalglish, S.L.; Ameratunga, S.; Balabanova, D.; Bhan, M.K.; Bhutta, Z.A.; Borrazzo, J.; et al. A future for the world’s children? A WHO–UNICEF–Lancet Commission. Lancet 2020, 395, 605–658.
  10. Govender, I.; Rangiah, S.; Kaswa, R.; Nzaumvila, D. Malnutrition in children under the age of 5 years in a primary health care setting. S. Afr. Fam. Pract. 2021, 63, e1–e6, Erratum in S. Afr. Fam. Pract. 2021, 63, 5416.
  11. IFPRI. 2015 Annual Report: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). 2016. Available online: (accessed on 1 July 2023).
  12. FAO; IFAD; UNICEF; WFP; WHO. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022: Re-Purposing Food and Agricultural Policies to Make Healthy Diets More Affordable; FAO: Rome, Italy, 2022; 260p, ISBN 978-92-5-136499-4.
  13. Coleman-Jensen, A.; Rabbitt, M.P.; Gregory, C.A.; Singh, A. Household Food Security in the United States in 2020; USDA, Economic Research Service: Washington, DC, USA, 2021; 56p. Available online: (accessed on 2 July 2023).
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  18. Peng, W.; Berry, E.M. The Concept of Food Security. In Encyclopedia of Food Security and Sustainability; Ferranti, P., Berry, E.M., Anderson, J.R., Eds.; Elsevier: Cambridge, MA, USA, 2019; Volume 2, pp. 1–7. ISBN 9780128126875.
  19. United Nations. Report of the World Food Conference, Rome, 5–16 November 1974. 1975. Available online: (accessed on 30 June 2023).
  20. FAO. World Food Security: A Reappraisal of the Concepts and Approaches: Director General’s Report. 1983. Available online: (accessed on 30 June 2023).
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