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Four Big Issues

Is food a human right?

Robert S. Lawrence, MD, is director of the Center for a Livable Future.

All citizens of the world have a right to food.

Under UN guidelines, the right to adequate food is everything from nutritional quality to sufficient calories, so food adequacy is this broad concept of good, healthy, safe and culturally appropriate food.

Globally about 2.5 billion people lack food security. Almost a billion are malnourished. Policy changes are needed to support small farmers in low-income countries with better seeds and fertilizer, better use of water, access to markets and protection from subsidized commodities from high-income countries.

When you look at the statistics in the U.S., 15 percent of the population lives in poverty. Even with SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), many people run out of benefits halfway through the month and turn to cheap, high-calorie, processed food because it's available in low-income neighborhoods.

That is a failure of the federal government to fulfill the right to nutritious, affordable food. And it's a factor in the 600,000 premature deaths in the U.S. that are the result of a poor diet.

If we could ensure food security tomorrow to the 18 million people in the U.S. who don't have access to enough food-or the right kinds of food-the number of premature deaths would plummet.

As public health people, through our training and research and knowledge, we have the duty to work more effectively for better food policies and for greater access to healthy foods.

Comments

  • Parag Mahale

    Houston 02/25/2014 02:57:04 PM

    Preservatives used in food, in my opinion, are the major cause of food allergies. Many of them, like sodium benzoate, can be carcinogenic after metabolism. GMOs provide foreign proteins that the body is never exposed to and cause GI related allergic issues. The food production is the main reason for increasing incidence of food allergies and it is going to get worse.

  • Livingstone

    Uganda 05/16/2014 10:27:23 AM

    first foods are responsible for most non communicable diseases since majority of people do not have choice of want to eat.

  • Livingstone

    Uganda 05/16/2014 10:31:35 AM

    GMO foods may lead to extinction of original foods since their genetic make would have changed which may lead to hung shortage of food in the world (global concern)

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