The inaugural World Food Systems report judged the food systems in 125 different countries, ranking each nation based on four different major metrics: affordability of food, food quality, abundance of food, and the eating habits of citizens. The United States’ food systems score was adversely affected by both the nation’s high obesity and diabetes rate. Twenty European nations and Australia all ranked above America. The report was issued by the international advocacy confederation, Oxfam. The United States’ food system ranks 21st in the world according to a new report, a perhaps surprisingly low score for the economic superpower.
The United States ranked second in having enough to eat, sixth in affordability of food, third in food quality, but 41st in unhealthy eating. In sub-categories, America ranked 36th in diabetes and 46th in obesity. The Netherlands scored the highest overall on the annual list, followed by France and Switzerland, which tied for second place. African nations largely comprised the bottom half of the list, with Chad scoring the lowest. Mexico and Canada tied for 25th. China weighed in at 57th.
“Despite the huge technological advances of modern times, we are still failing to provide people with the basic sustenance they need to survive and eat healthily,” the report said. “This index shows how it is a phenomenon felt most starkly in poor countries, but not exclusively. Few countries are deserving of silver service status, with obesity, food prices and nutrition rates undermining the records of many of the richest countries – a burden which often weighs heaviest on their poorest citizens.”
The quality of food category included considerations for “nutritionally diverse food options” and access to clean and safe drinking water. In this category, the United States and Australia tied for fourth place. Ireland scored the highest in this ranking, followed by Switzerland and the Netherlands.
America earned the top score for affordability of food. The volatility of food price inflation was a major consideration for scores in this category as well. Some in the US, of course, would disagree with America’s score in this category. After all, processed frozen food and non-organic meat and produce are staples in poor rural areas and in food desert areas, meaning that access to non-GMO and all-natural food products often involves growing it yourself or paying top dollar at an out-of-the-way supermarket. Saudi Arabia scored the worst on the unhealthy eating scale. Kuwait had the bottom score in the obesity column.
The stated goal of the report was to create a snapshot of the most recent and pertinent worldwide statistics on food challenges, food conditions, and ways to combat obstacles to obtaining affordable healthy food. “The looming squeeze on natural resources, particularly land and water, and the gathering pace of climate change are set to make this worse,” the report stated.
The document went on to state that one in eight people go to sleep each night hungry, even though there is enough food to sustain the masses. The misuse of resources, over consumption, and waste were the noted common elements posing problems for food systems in nations around the world.
Folks interested in healthier eating options and purchasing or growing organic food may soon face food supply shortages as well. An Australian organic farmer has lost a GMO lawsuit which supporters worldwide hoped would be a landmark victory for all-natural farming.
Farmer Steve Marsh of Australia believed that genetically modified canola had drifted onto his land, contaminating his naturally grown crops and ultimately costing him his organic certification. Farmers around the globe have attempted to sue Monsanto and GMO seed competitor DuPont on GMO contamination or cross-contamination grounds in the United States, but no American farmer has emerged from the courtroom victorious.
Marsh sued his former friend and neighbor Michael Baxter for $85,000 after his crops of rye and oats were allegedly contaminated. Marsh operates a farm in Kojonup, about a three hour drive from Perth, Australia. In addition to seeking a fiscal remedy for his GMO-contaminated crop, the Australian organic farmer also wanted the Western Australia Supreme Court to order a permanent injunction against the planting of more genetically engineered crops by Baxter.
Justice Kenneth Martin sided with the GMO farmer when delivering a 150-page judgment on May 28. According to Martin, no “unreasonable interference” with Marsh’s crops and livestock had occurred. The Australian organic farmer lost the organic status on 70 percent of his growing area, costing him $85,000 in earnings, he said.
“[Marsh and his family] did not claim to have suffered any physical damage or injury to themselves, to their animals, or to their land,” Martin ruled. “GM canola only posed a risk of transferring genetic material if a canola seed germinated in the Eagles Rest soil … and then later cross-fertilized through its pollen being exchanged with another compatible species.”
The GMO farmer’s application of his crop was “entirely orthodox in its implementation,” the judge said.
“Nor could Mr Baxter be held responsible, in law, for the reactions to the incursion of the Marshes’ organic certification body, NCO, which in the circumstances presented to be an unjustifiable reaction to what occurred,” Martin ruled.
Baxter addressed the media outside of the courthouse, saying the lengthy lawsuit had “destroyed” his life. “It has been a real tough three-and-a-half years. My marriage has fallen apart. I just want to get back to normal. You don’t expect your neighbor to sue you,” Baster said. Lynn MacLaren, an MP in the Western Australian Parliament, disagreed with the ruling. “This is a saddening result for Steve Marsh and non-GMO farmers holding their breath in hopes of defense against Monsanto,” MacLaren said.
A statement by the National Network of Concerned Farmers (NNCF) indicated that Marsh will appeal the ruling.
“This should never have been farmer against farmer, the government should have sorted this issue out,” said Julie Newman of the NNCF. “If you lost part of your crop through spray drift you get compensation. When GM crops contaminate your crop you get nothing. This is ridiculous.” Croplife Australia deemed the organic farming courtroom failure a “victory for common sense.”