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Environment Magazine September/October 2008


January-February 2017

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The Perilous Nature of Food Supplies: Natural Hazards, Social Vulnerability, and Disaster Resilience

Food security is a complex and intertwined problem of reliability, quantity, and affordability of nutritious food, including the costs of production. It is a problem in developing and developed nations alike, where deficits in the availability and quality of food lead to hunger and malnutrition, impairing the health of millions. The global interdependence of food supply chains is well known—when one part of the food production chain is affected (e.g., contamination, poor harvests, natural hazards, conflict) the consequences reverberate globally, with reductions in supply and increased prices. Moreover, global patterns of urbanization are fundamentally altering food systems and more significantly food preferences, which is also reducing the food security of the planet's 6.5 billion urban dwellers.1

Susan L. Cutter is a Carolina Distinguished Professor of Geography at the University of South Carolina and director of the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute and the Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR) International Centre of Excellence (ICoE) on Vulnerability and Resilience Metrics. Dr. Cutter is an elected fellow of AAAS, past president of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), and past president of the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA).

This article is an expanded version of a keynote address at the Vulnerability of Agricultural Production Networks and Global Food Value Chains due to Natural Disasters Conference co-sponsored by OECD Cooperative Research Programme: Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems (CRP), the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), and the Vienna University of Technology, June 20-24, 2016 in Vienna, Austria. A special thank you goes to Erika Pham for graphics assistance.   

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