FOOD security may not be an issue on the radar of many Australians as the nation is considered a land of plenty.
But, with the gap between exports and imports rapidly narrowing and the looming threat of climate change, questions on the future security of Australia's food supply are being raised.
The Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council recently released two scientific reports including one addressing the food issue titled Australia and Food Security in a Changing World.
The report has been labelled "ground-breaking and vital to the future" of the nation by Australia's chief scientist Professor Penny Sackett.
Australia is currently a net exporter of food, with considerable expertise in food production, but the nation is under resource constraints, particularly in the face of climate variability.
The report suggests increased challenges to the Australian industry including land degradation, population growth, long-term climate change, competition for arable land, scarcity of water and availability of nutrients and energy.
"Food security does not just mean having enough food in a typical year,"' Prof Sackett said.
"It means having reliable and sustainable access to acceptable, nutritious, and affordable food at all times.
"Australians expect this security and about 40 million non-Australians internationally rely on our country for their food as well."
Prof Sackett said the report recommended a visionary approach that brought together regulatory and funding agencies, research organisations and industry to achieve outcomes in economic growth and population health centred on food.
"These steps include urgent new investment in food science and technology that will spur future transformational change in healthy and efficient food production; increasing our human capacity to provide a suitably skilled workforce for the food sector; and translating community awareness of food into better food choices," Prof Sackett said.
The chair of the working group who put the report together was Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics chief executive Peter Langridge. The working group brought together representatives from the CSIRO, the University of Queensland, the University of New England, the University of Wollongong and the National Farmers Federation.
Professor Langridge said work on the report began in March this year.
"We spent a lot of time determining the real issues associated with food security, both in Australia and internationally, and what we can do to help," he said.
"On the surface, you would say Australia doesn't really face a food security problem but if you delve down we may not be quite as secure as we feel."
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