Antônio Salazar P. Brandão, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economic Analysis at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. He participated in the Feeding the World, Ethically working group meeting in Ranco, Italy in October 2014. Here is a brief interview as part of the Perspectives on Global Food Ethics blog series.

 


 

 

Can you briefly describe your related background and interest in food security?

 

I am an agricultural economist and most of my work is related to trade in agricultural products, land market issues and agricultural policy. My interest in worldwide food security arose because of the tradeoffs involved in feeding a growing population in the face of low land availability and of restrictions in its use due to environmental concerns. In this context, the distribution of agricultural production through international trade is important for food security because global efficiency in land use is an essential component of a strategy to ease the tradeoffs noted above.

 

In your opinion, what are the most pressing ethical issues in your domain related to global food security?

 

One issue is that increasing quality requirements related to food safety, food appearance and food origin, call for changes, sometimes deep changes, in the organization of agricultural production. A large number of poorer small farmers, mostly in developing countries, will not be able, for a number of reasons, to produce with the required standards. Additionally these farmers will have difficulties to adopt technologies compatible with land scarcity and land use restrictions. The consequence is that a large number of them will be displaced, causing economic problems for them and their families as well as changes in their way of life.

 

Can you share one issue or anecdote from the Feeding the World, Ethically meeting in Ranco that may have changed your perception on one ethical problem within food and nutrition security?

 

I had my attention called to the ethical issues associated with forecasts of food demand. Projections help policy decisions, but the use made by policy makers and others frequently do not take fully into account the technical limitations of these analysis.

 

Lack of quality in the data is also an issue raised in the meeting that deserves close attention.

 

Many of the projection models also involve decisions taken in the present that affect future generations. Often times, due to data and even conceptual limitations, the weight attributed to costs and benefits of future generations is somewhat arbitrary, frequently this is done by means of some sort of consensus among specialists. One key parameter in this regard is the so called discount rate which is how future events are priced in the present. Model results can be sensitive, sometimes very sensitive, to the selection of this parameter.

 

What is your hope for making progress on this ethical problem?

 

Projections are useful and progress can be made by increasing the transparency of models, improving the quality of the data and by educating users and the public in general with respect to limitations. Many institutions that produce projections are aware of these limitations but a more active role on their part in conveying this information is another important step to make progress on this ethical problem.

 


 

Global Food Ethics Project: Feeding the World Fairly

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