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Heavyweights of global food crisis debate gather for Foreign Policy School

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Wednesday 24 June 2009 10:00am

Several of world's leading voices in the global food crisis debate gather in Dunedin this weekend for the University of Otago's 44th Foreign Policy School.

One of the School's directors, Associate Professor Hugh Campbell, who is also Director of the Centre for the Study of Agriculture, Food and Environment (CSAFE), says that the current economic crisis has tended to overshadow the burgeoning food crisis.

"Even though the current economic crisis is a bad one, it is part of the cyclical nature of economics. Unfortunately the current food crisis is more than a mere cycle and needs to be examined in the light of current trends, such as the push for global trade negotiations.

"One of the central questions that will be discussed this weekend will be whether this push for a large integrated global food market is simply pricing food out of the range of poor people around the world."

Associate Professor Campbell says it is a global debate that has many implications for New Zealand, which is proportionally the largest food exporter in the world.

"Food figures large in the way we generate wealth as a country. More than 90 per cent of the food we produce is exported - largely to high end markets.

"This will be an opportune time to examine what the world food crisis means for New Zealand - both in terms of agricultural and trade policy, as well as for other interest groups and non-governmental organisations."

The 44th Foreign Policy School will also look at whether New Zealand has a regional responsibility in terms of food security and consider issues of environmental sustainability, climate change, food miles, energy expenditure in food production and water use.

About 140 people from around New Zealand and Australia have registered for the School.

The international line-up of speakers for the Foreign Policy School includes:

Robert Watson - Former Associate Director for Environment in the Clinton White House and arguably the highest profile speaker at the 2009 School. He is now Chief Scientific Advisor in the UK Department of Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs and was the former Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He will talk about the future direction of global agriculture based on his work as the Chair of the IAASTD - the UN's 2008 assessment of global agriculture.

Professor Tim Lang - From the Centre for Food Policy, City University London. Professor Lang is probably best known for popularising the concept of food miles. He will give a video presentation addressing the issue of how to develop a more sustainable diet. Should we look at removing meat from our diet? Should we focus on buying local rather than imported foods? And could eating seasonal foods be a way of reducing the amount of energy used in food production?

Professor Jules Pretty - From the University of Essex, Professor Pretty is a leading authority on the sustainability of agricultural production and the environmental impact of agricultural intensification. He has strong ideas on how to improve production while improving the environment of the farm and the surrounding area. He will contribute to the Foreign Policy School's discussion of the potential to meet the global demand for food in a sustainable way.

Claire Mahon - Joint co-coordinator of the Project on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human rights. She is a strong advocate for the principle of having enough food, but also having healthy food - as a basic human right.

The University of Otago's 44th Foreign Policy School will be held from Friday 26 June to Sunday 28 June at Salmond College in Dunedin.

For more information, contact

Dr Chris Rosin
Centre for the Study of Agriculture Food and Environment (CSAFE)
University of Otago
Tel 479 5230

Associate Professor Hugh Campbell
Centre for the Study of Agriculture Food and Environment (CSAFE)
University of Otago
Tel 479 8749

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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