On January 14th, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) held its 10th plenary session entitled, "Visualizing the World's Food Systems," in Geneva, Switzerland. Sponsored by the U.S. Government, Australia & the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), the Open Geospatial Consortium and GEOGLAM, the program overview was as follows:
In the "new normal" of increasing demand and rising volatility of production variables (such as weather, pests, disease), the threat of crop failures, price spikes, outbreaks of civil instability, public health failure as a consequence of dietary and other shifts and their devastating consequences in human and environmental dimensions is ever more present. The consequences and interconnected dynamics of failure in food systems and related issues of water and energy security in economic, political and humanitarian terms is now more obvious than ever. In the midst of this uncertainty, policy makers, vulnerable populations, private sector and other influential stakeholders working at various scales will frequently find themselves forced to make difficult decisions in relation to food security that will have significant local and global impacts. The key to ensuring that negative impacts are minimized to the extent possible is to ensure that all decision makers have access to transparent and objective data and sophisticated analytics on three important variables - stocks, projected production and trade in food. Supply chains including logistics, consumption patterns and eventually other important human dimensions of food systems such as diet-related public health, waste, etc. are also key attributes of global food systems where improved ability to depict interacting dynamics represents a frontier.
The current initiative is focused on delivering improved information on projected production, scenarios, and ultimately trade as well as more informal movement of foodstuffs, consumption patterns, human nutritional status and food insecurity, interactions with energy and water security, and consequences of our production practices in human and environmental dimensions. Near term, it is clear that production projections in public space suffer from two major challenges. First, they are based on nationally reported data subject to political and other influence, and/or they are based on a historical trends and model approaches that are becoming increasingly inaccurate in the face of increased volatility and structural shifts in production variables. By harnessing the power of remote sensing, monitoring networks, intelligence capabilities, dynamic modeling, informatics and modern approaches to scaling and uncertainty, linked with flows of real time data from public and private sources and state of the art visualization approaches, we will be able to make improved projections related to the dynamics and uncertainties in food systems, and to make that information available in a manner that is accessible to decision makers who need it. Using a number of existing political, technical and economic platforms (G8, G20, AMIS (Agricultural Marketing Information Service), GEOGLAM (Group on Earth Observations Global Agricultural Monitoring Community of Practice), APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Corporation, P80 Foundation, Development Banks, et al.) we will be able to disseminate this information to ensures its acceptability and sustainability.
GEOG's Dr. Inbal Becker-Reshef gave a presentation, and Dr. Shunlin Liang was also in attendance. Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics of the USDA , Dr. Ann Bartuska, and her colleagues were also present, emphasizing the need for an economic analysis, which their team is prepared to offer. Many thanks go to Molly Jahn and David LeZaks of the University of Wisconsin for organizing the event.
To read the press release offered by the Mission of the U.S. Geneva, please click here.
UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction article: Pooled Knowledge Key to Food Security